SENATOR and Chair of the Senate Committee on Sports Christopher “Bong” Go appealed to vaccine czar Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. to include in the priority list for COVID-19 vaccination the Filipino athletes and other delegates who will be competing in the upcoming Tokyo Summer Olympics and the Southeast Asian Games in Hanoi, both this year.
In a statement, Go said that Galvez responded positively to the appeal, adding that they are currently studying how the competing athletes can be prioritized alongside, and without prejudice, to other sectors that have already been identified as top priority for vaccination, such as frontliners and those belonging to poor and vulnerable sectors.
For pride and unity of the country
“Bandila ng Pilipinas at dangal ng lahing Pilipino ang itatanghal ng ating mga atleta sa mga palarong ito. Dapat lamang na bigyan din natin sila ng sapat na proteksyon,” said Go in a statement.
Citing the previous Southeast Asian Games, Go noted that athletes bring pride to the country and give Filipinos a sense of unity.
“Noong nakaraang 2019 SEA Games, naging kampeon ang Team Pilipinas dahil sa suporta ng buong sambayanang Pilipino. Nagkaisa ang gobyerno, pribadong sektor, at ordinaryong Pilipino para ating mga atleta,” Go said.
“Ngayon na kailangan nila ang tulong at proteksyon mula sa sakit, ibigay muli natin ang suportang kailangan nila hindi lamang sa oras ng kanilang kompetisyon, kundi pati na rin sa kanilang preparasyon at panahon ng kanilang pangangailangan,” he added.
Protecting athletes' livelihood
Go also emphasized that this is not merely about competition but is also a source of livelihood for athletes and other sports professionals, especially those who come from poor communities.
“Marami po sa atleta natin ay nagsikap at nanggaling pa sa malalayong lugar. Sila po ang pag-asa ng kanilang pamilya upang makaahon sa hirap. Ang proteksyon nila ay hindi lang para makapag-compete, kundi pati rin para may maiuwing pagkain, kabuhayan, at kasiyahan sa kanilang mga komunidad na pinanggalingan,” he stressed.
“Intindihin po natin na maraming nawalan din ng kabuhayan at lahat ‘yan ay may mga pamilyang pinapakain. Kasama na diyan ang mga atleta, coaches at trainers na matagal na tumigil ang kabuhayan dahil sa COVID-19. Kapag nabakunahan sila, hindi lang ito para sa kompetisyon kundi para rin sa kabuhayan nila,” he explained further.
In a letter addressed to Galvez, the Philippine Sports Commission also asked for national athletes to be provided with COVID-19 vaccines once they are available.
“The members of the national team are among those high risk to the virus' threat given their required qualification competitions held in various parts of the globe,” the PSC stated in the letter.
“With this, we see the urgency of asking for your help in giving protection to our elite pool of athletes playing for the flag despite the present global health crisis,” it added.
Currently, national athletes are preparing for the Tokyo 2021 Olympics where they hope to bag the country’s first gold medal. They will also be participating in the 2021 SEA Games in Hanoi, Vietnam to defend the Philippines' championship title, and the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games to be held in Thailand in May next year.
“Ang tagumpay nila ay tagumpay rin ng buong bansa. Hirap na hirap na ang ating mga kababayan pero subukan nating bigyan ang taumbayan ng rason na magkaroon ng pag-asa at magkaisa,” Go said.
“Amid the hardships we all bear and which we work hard to overcome, now, more than ever, we need more reasons to be united as one people and win as one nation,” he ended.