POC President Abraham Tolentino — PHILSTAR FILE PHOTO

THE PHILIPPINES is already losing the Southeast Asian Games battle even if the biennial event scheduled May 5 to 17 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia this year hasn’t even started.

Philippine Olympic Committee President Abraham Tolentino yesterday said bodybuilding has been dropped from the Phnom Penh Games calendar while muay thai has been merged with Kun Khmer, a Cambodian national martial arts event.

The country has a chance to strike gold in both events especially with the latter where the Filipinos have consistently struck gold — three in 2019 in Subic and two last year in Hanoi.

The country, however, could be in danger of not sending its national muay team because of the International Federation of Muay Thai Associations (IFMA) warning late last year that it will stop teams from joining the biennial event since Cambodian organizers are using a different governing body not recognized by both the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Olympic Council Asia (OCA) due to the merger.

“Bodybuildiung has been dropped. Muay, anyone can join, legit or not, as long as it is endorsed by the NOC (POC),” the Tagaytay City mayor yesterday told The STAR. “Dapat national team.”

That is not counting Cambodia’s earlier decision capping participation by visiting countries in martial arts and other sports.

One example is karate where only a maximum of 10 of the 15 events can be participated on by all nations except the host, who can join all.

In canoe-kayak and esports, only seven can play out of the 10 events except the host.

But Mr. Tolentino is still clinging to hope that the Filipinos could replicate, if not eclipse, their fourth-place effort in last year’s Hanoi Games where they raked in 52 gold, 70 silver and 105 bronze medals.

“Based on their formula, di kayang mag-first ng Cambodia pero sasaksak sa itaas whether second, third, fourth,” he said. “Battle for fourth, pero tingnan natin with the promises of other sports.”

(Cambodia cannot be first but they will fight for the top 4, will see.) — Joey Villar