MANILA – EJ Obiena and Kiyomi Watanabe have been chosen by the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) as the Philippine team's flag bearers for the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremonies.

POC president Abraham Tolentino said on Thursday that Obiena, the world ranked number six male pole vaulter, and Watanabe, arguably the best Filipina judoka right now, were tapped to wave the Philippine flag based on two major factors that would determine if they are free to bring the flag around the athletic oval on July 23.

"We based our selection on the availability--kung sino ang andoon na dahil 'di tayo sabay-sabay darating doon (whoever is already there because everyone will not fly together there)--and the schedule of their games and practice," Tolentino said.

This is not the first time Obiena and Watanabe will be carrying the Philippine flag as they were also tapped as flag bearers for the Philippine team during the 2019 Southeast Asian Games opening ceremonies at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.

Unlike the other Olympic games, however, only eight people including the flag bearers will be allowed to join the national team parade as part of the health and safety protocols amid the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic.

"Ang in-allow lang po sa parada ay anim na prime team officials (Only six prime team officials are allowed in the parade)," Tolentino said, adding that he will not join the parade.

The officials who will join Obiena and Watanabe in the opening ceremonies are Lani Velasco of swimming, Cynthia Carrion-Norton of gymnastics, Nonito Velasco of boxing, Daniel Bautista of skateboarding, Dave Carter of judo, and Nonong Araneta of football, who is tasked as the Philippine team's chef de mission.

Carter, upon announcing Watanabe's designation as flag bearer, said the Philippine Judo Federation (PJF) "is very much honored" that she was chosen.

Carter added that the PJF is delighted with the news because it would be a historic one.

"This is the first time that judo was made flagbearer," Carter said in a statement.

What makes this even more special is that Watanabe is the first female judoka to qualify for the Olympics for the Philippines.

"[It's] very fitting [since] judo now celebrates its first Pinay judo Olympian," Carter said. (PNA)