THE Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) mulled the early preparation of the country in the 2010 Youth Olympic Games in Singapore as the country is hoping to send at least 25 athletes for the August 14 to 26 meet.

Mark Joseph, the newly-installed chief of mission of Team Philippines, said they could only send a lean delegation because of the strict qualifying tournaments which started last year to earn slots.

Click here for stories and updates on the Sinulog 2010 Festival.

“I think it's because the Youth is new, and the International Olympic Committee is looking if these Olympic sports included appeals to the youth," the POC deputy secretary general and swimming chief said in a radio interview.

“I also think that the qualifiers are three times harder than the Summer Olympic qualifying tournaments because they only offer limited slots for the youth," he added.

Joseph was formally appointed as chief of mission during the January 23 POC executive board meeting along with Joey Romasanta, the delegation head for the 16th Asian Games in Guangzhou, China in November; and Jeff Tamayo, the boss for the 2nd Asian Beach Games in Muscat, Oman in December.

The Youth Games is the biggest gathering for athletes 14 to 18 years old. This will be participated in by 205 countries, which will take part in 26 disciplines.

Joseph said top junior netter Francis Casey Alcantara has already earned an automatic slot on the strength of his winning the boys’ doubles in the prestigious Australian Open last year where he teamed up with Taiwanese Hsieh Cheng-peng on the road to victory.

“Alcantara’s victory in the Australian Open and his subsequent high top 30 rating internationally earned for him the outright seat in the Youth Olympics,” Joseph said of the 17-year-old Cagayan de Oro stunner.

Another tennister, 16-year-old Iligan pride Jeson Patrombon, has a chance to be seeded although he must have to win several qualifying tournaments to finally make it.

Patrombon saw action last October 2009 in the Osaka Mayor’s Cup-World Super Junior Tennis Championships 2009 in Osaka, Japan where he reached the quarterfinals.

Before bowing out to 11th seed Jason Murray Kubler of Australia, he shocked fourth seed and world number 17 Shuichi Sekiguchi of Japan, 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, in the second round, and number 15 Vaidik Munshaw of India (137th in the world), 6-3, 6-3, in the third round.

Swimmers Jessie Lacuna, Jasmine Alkhaldi, Banjo Borja, Dorothy Hong, and Jose Gonzales have reached the qualifying standard but would have to maintain their respective times in order to qualify for the Games.

Athletes who will comprise the RP basketball 3-on-3 squad have yet to be determined.

“As for basketball, it was the Fiba, the world’s governing body in the sport that gave the Philippines outright seeding probably because of the country’s contribution to the growth of basketball worldwide,” he said.

Qualifying tournaments are still scheduled until May 15 including equestrian, shooting, archery, boxing, and taekwondo.

Joseph meanwhile said he will seek support from the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) for the contingent’s participation in the inaugural meet.

“I’ll talk with (PSC) Chairman (Harry) Angping and I want to exchange ideas with him on what the PSC’s approach to youth development (will be)," he said.

Joseph earlier projected a budget of P7.5 million or P300,000 per athlete for the Singapore meet. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)