By Mark Angelo Mañez

PHOTO: Inquirer Sports

The Philippines is one of the eight member nations that voted against the postponement of the 31st Southeast Asian Games (SEAG) due to the pandemic from November 2021 to July 2022.

During a meeting with the SEA Games Council on Wednesday, Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) President Rep. Abaraham 'Bambol' Tolentino disclosed the country’s position saying that moving the Games to a later date “is unfair to the athletes who have already sacrificed their time and effort in training.”

He added Filipino delegates are also preparing for several other world sport competitions next year “so it's very difficult for the SEA Games to be postponed.”

Moreover, Tolentino said a budget of P200 million pesos has already been set aside by the national government for the training and participation of Filipino athletes in the Games. 

"The final decision will be known next week," he added. "But it's still the government of Vietnam that has the final decision."

On the other hand, Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) commissioner and SEAG Chef de Mission Ramon Fernandez will have no problems whether or not the Games will be postponed.

“It’s okay with me and the PSC on whatever decision the host makes. If it’s going to be postponed, that will give us a longer time to prepare our athletes,” Fernandez said. “All our athletes will be vaccinated by then.”

Aside from the Philippines, countries that opposed the postponement of the Games were Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Timor Leste. 

Meanwhile, host country Vietnam and Myanmar voted in favor of the proposal while Laos abstained. 

Vietnam was successful in managing the spread of the virus last year, but is currently battling its worst outbreak, with more than half of its 63 provinces reporting 5,600 cases since late April.

Some Games' event venues in the northeast part, particularly in Bac Ninh and in Bac Giang have been worst affected, with the badminton venue in Bac Giang converted into a hospital.

Nearly 20,000 participants, including 7,000 athletes from its member nations, are expected to grace the biennial sporting meet.

Vietnam previously hosted the Games in 2003 and have earmarked US$ 69 million (VND 1.6 trillion, PHP 3.29 billion) to host the event.