PARA-ATHLETE Jerrold Mangliwan (wheelchair racing) will be the Philippines’ flag-bearer in the opening ceremony on Tuesday of the 16th Paralympic Games in Tokyo.

COMPETING now without a full complement after one of the para-athletes tested positive for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), the quest for Team Philippines at the 16th Paralympic Games in Tokyo still continues.

The sporting event for the differently abled officially kicks off on Tuesday with the country one of the 167 participating nations.

Team Philippines was to be represented by six para-athletes — two athletes for para athletics (Jerrold Mangliwan/wheelchair racing) and Jeanette Aceveda/discus throw), two for para swimming (Ernie Gawilan and Gary Bejino), and one each for para taekwondo (Allain Ganapin) and powerlifting (Achelle Guion).

But on Sunday, the Philippine Paralympic Committee (PPC) announced that some of the members of the country’s contingent failed to make the trip to Tokyo last Sunday after they were found to be positive for COVID-19.

“It is unfortunate for us to inform the public that some officials, coaches, and a para-athlete of our Philippine delegation bound for Tokyo to participate in the 2020 Paralympic Games have tested positive for COVID-19,” the statement of PPC President Michael I. Barredo read.

The names of those who tested positive were not mentioned, but they are now in isolation as part of existing health and safety protocols.

The rest of the team are already in Tokyo and are in “high spirits.”

Despite the setback, Team Philippines said it is committed to competing at the Paralympic Games and giving their all to bring pride and honor to the country.

“We are confident that our athletes will give their best in the pursuit of their Paralympic dreams,” said Mr. Barredo.

“This is just unfortunate, but the fight continues for us,” Philippine chef de mission Francis Carlos B. Diaz, for his part, said in a short message to BusinessWorld.

Mr. Mangliwan is designated to carry the country’s colors in the opening ceremony on Tuesday while Mr. Gawilan will have the same responsibility in the closing on Sept. 5.

In the official schedule provided to the media, Mr. Bejino will be the first to see action for Team Philippines in the men’s 200m individual medley set for Thursday, Aug. 26. Also playing that day is Ms. Guion in the final of the -45kg powerlifting final.

As added motivation for Filipino para-athletes, they stand to receive cash incentives if they win a medal.

Under Republic Act 10699, or the incentives act, a Paralympic gold medalist will receive P5 million from the government while a silver medalist will get P2.5 million. The bronze medalist will be rewarded with P1 million.

The Manuel V. Pangilinan (MVP) Sports Foundation, meanwhile, has pledged to give the same amount as incentives.

In the history of the Paralympics, the Philippines has won two bronze medals courtesy of powerlifter Adeline Dumapong (Sydney 2000) and table tennis player Josephine Medina (Rio 2016). — Michael Angelo S. Murillo