MANILA, APRIL 17, 2006 (STAR) By Abac Cordero - No less than 129 athletes will represent the Philippines in the 15th Asian Games to be held in Doha, Qatar this December.

Asian Games task force head Go Teng Kok presented the number of athletes who have so far passed the criteria to Philippine Olympic Committee president Jose Cojuangco.

"Ninety percent of those (submitted) are okay," said Cojuangco after presiding over the POC executive committee meeting yesterday afternoon in Makati City.

Most of these athletes are competing in invididual events. Close to 60 officials will be part of the RP delegation.

The number, however, may rise in case more athletes make it in the different qualifying tournaments for the quadrennial event scheduled Dec. 1 to 15.

"You can say that 129 will be our base number," added POC spokesman Joey Romasanta. "It may also increase in case we send teams in basketball, softball, baseball or water polo."

While POC officials have kept an open mind, the inclusion of the basketball team to the RP contingent remains in the air since the country is still under FIBA suspension.

Romasanta said certain sections in the criteria set by the task force are still under review just to make sure that the Philippines gets its best representation in Doha.

The final list is expected to come out when the POC holds its General Assembly next month.

Only then will the budget for the training and actual Asian Games participation of the RP athletes will be presented, discussed and finalized by the Philippine Sports Commission.

Earlier, the PSC said it will set aside P30 million for the Asian Games. But Guillermo Iroy, PSC executive director, said a clearer picture will only come out when the final list is made.

The Philippines sent 230 athletes to the 2002 Asian Games in Busan where it won three gold medals courtesy of bowling, billiards and equestrian. Local officials are eyeing at least five gold medals this time.

While Pinoy athletes are pushing through with their training in the country, they have yet to see action in international events because of lack of funds.

For the 23rd Southeast Asian Games last year, the country spent close to P160 million for the overseas training of the athletes. This worked wonders for them as they won the overall title in the biennial event.

First Gentleman Mike Arroyo helped raise the money through a pledging session involving the private sector.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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