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Bong Go urges gov’t to prioritize vaccination for SEA Games and Olympics-bound athletes

SENATOR Christopher ‘Bong’ Go on Tuesday renewed his appeal to the national government to include qualified members of Team Philippines in the prioritize list for COVID-19 vaccine to ensure their health and safety while fighting for pride and glory in the coming Olympics in Tokyo and the Southeast Asian Games in Vietnam.

Go, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Sports, said athletes are the country’s source of pride and must considered frontliners as they risked their lives and families just to make themselves focus and ready to represent the National Team in various international and world-class tournaments.

So far, eight Filipino athletes are already qualified for the Olympics in Tokyo, Japan on July, while over 200 gold medalists in the 2019 SEA Games held in Manila are automatically gained slots for the biennial meet set on November in Hanoi City, Vietnam.

“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,” said Go.

“Marami rin po ang naghihirap sa ating mga atleta at tatandaan natin na bukod sa pagrepresenta sa ating bansa, lahat po sila ay may mga pamilya rin pong pinapakain at binubuhay. Ang pagbabakuna sa kanila ay hindi lang bilang suporta sa ating mga atleta, kundi suporta rin upang maiangat muli ang kanilang kabuhayan,” he added.

Go earlier discussed his appeal with vaccine czar Carlito Galvez, Jr. and Health Secretary Francisco Duque III. Both committed to include qualified athletes in the priority list, without prejudice to already identified priority categories such as frontliners, senior citizens, those with comorbidities, and essential sectors.

“Bilang Chair ng Senate Committees on Sports at Health, umaapila ako na bakunahan na agad ang ating mga atleta na sasabak sa upcoming international competitions. Makiisa at magmalasakit tayo sa Team Pilipinas. Suportahan at proteksyunan natin sila dahil karangalan rin ng bansa ang nakataya rito,” he appealed.

He also noted that the country’s athletes and delegation members for upcoming international sports competitions must be prioritized in the vaccination in order not to jeopardize their health condition and performance, as well as their chances of competing and representing the Philippines.

“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. 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 sa ating mga atleta,” said Go.

“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 said.   

Moreover, the Senator urged the Philippine Sports Commission, in coordination with the Philippine Olympic Committee, to finalize the master list of athletes competing for the Olympics and SEA Games which shall be submitted to the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases through the Department of Health.

According to the PSC and POC, the country is expecting to form a delegation with around 100 members for the Olympics. An estimated 1,500-strong delegation will also be formed for the SEA Games. These include athletes, coaches, and team officials, among others.

“Bilisan na po natin para hindi tayo maipit sa oras dahil malapit na po ang mga kompetisyon. Tutal patuloy naman po ang pagdating ng mga bakuna at ginagawa rin ng gobyerno ang lahat para mapabilis ang ating vaccine rollout sa iba’t ibang parte ng bansa,” he stressed.

“Ayusin na ang listahan ng mga athletes and team members for qualified sporting events para maisaayos na rin ang pagbabakuna sa kanila. Ang bakunahan ang ating mga atleta ang pinakamalaking tulong na mabibigay natin sa kanila,” Go reminded concerned authorities.

The Japanese government announced that it will push ahead with the Summer Olympics with the opening ceremony taking place on July 23. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and International Paralympics Committee stated that vaccinations, while ‘strongly encouraged’, will not be mandatory for athletes to participate.

On Thursday, May 6, the IOC announced U.S.-based Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech will also be donating vaccines to inoculate athletes and officials. Deliveries are expected to begin this month to give delegations enough time to be fully vaccinated. A similar deal was made last March for the purchase and distribution of Chinese vaccines.

Go called upon the relevant authorities to finalize preparations in order to ensure the seamless and efficient implementation of the vaccination program as it expands to a bigger segment of the population.

“Dapat siguraduhin natin na mabilis at sistematiko ang pagdi-distribute ng mga bakuna. While we want to vaccinate as many people as quickly as we can, we also need to ensure their health and safety while they are in the process of getting vaccinated,” said Go.

He specifically urged the IATF, DOH, National Economic and Development Authority and other relevant authorities to properly communicate the necessary guidelines to build public confidence, allay fears on vaccines, and ensure compliance with health protocols in their communities.

“Para sa publiko, huwag po kayo matakot sa bakuna. Matakot kayo sa COVID-19. Magtiwala kayo sa bakuna dahil ito ang solusyon sa COVID-19 at susi para makabalik sa normal na pamumuhay.

Go assured that the government is working hard to procure sufficient amounts of vaccines so that the country can soon achieve herd immunity in our communities. With the arrival of more COVID-19 jabs, he said this will increase the vaccination rate of the country and will also ensure the second dose for frontliners and other priority sectors who have been vaccinated a month ago in order to gain the full protection of the vaccine.

“I urge every Filipino to get vaccinated in accordance with the prioritization order of sectors and trust the vaccination process since this is crucial for us to return to normalcy,” he said.

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