By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter
THE Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) is expected to resume its temporarily halted All-Filipino tournament next week in Pampanga in what the league describes as a product of the combined efforts of stakeholders amid a challenging situation.
At a media forum on Thursday, PBA Commissioner Willie O. Marcial said that they are excited to resume activities after a month of stoppage and grateful that the entire PBA family was involved in making the return a possibility.
Mr. Marcial said the teams and players worked in tandem with the league in pushing for the continuation of the Philippine Cup, halted since Aug. 2 after Metro Manila was placed under Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) and, later on, under Modified ECQ.
The teams, he said, were very cooperative in making the necessary adjustments as far as the training of the players and making sure all the prescribed protocols were being followed to make a strong case for the league’s ability to conduct activities under a safe and healthy environment.
They are now in different parts of Pampanga training in preparation for the resumption of games beginning in the first week of September at the Don Honorio Ventura State University (DHVSU) in Bacolor.
Players, too, were part of the return process, Mr. Marcial said, even chipping in for their accommodation and food as the league goes into a “semi-bubble.”
“The players reached out to me, led by LA Tenorio (of Barangay Ginebra), that they want the tournament to continue. But I was honest with them. I said we cannot go into another bubble like last year because it is very expensive. We spent at least P70 million for that and we cannot do it again for now,” said the PBA chief in Filipino.
“But LA said he talked to the team captains and they agreed to shoulder some of the expenses to lessen the burden on the league and the teams,” he added.
It was a welcome move, Mr. Marcial said, which helped facilitate the league’s push for resumption.
The PBA formally got the approval of DHVSU on Wednesday to use its facilities for the games after getting the endorsement of Pampanga Governor Dennis G. Pineda and Congressman Aurelio D. Gonzales, Jr.
The league said proceedings in Bacolor will be guided by health and safety protocols approved by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) and the provincial government of Pampanga.
Part of the protocols approved is the antigen testing of all the teams in the morning of each play date, which would mean five antigen tests per week since the PBA is shifting to five play dates — Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays — once it returns to action.
Mondays are for RT-PCR tests, with the results expected to come out the next day.
Player and team movements will be limited to hotel-game venue-hotel.
The PBA Philippine Cup opened on July 16 with games held at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City under a closed-circuit setup.
Action was stopped after matches on Aug. 1 just as Metro Manila was placed under ECQ because of rising coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases, particularly the Delta variant.
The league spent the next weeks looking for areas which could hold its games, eventually finding a willing host in Pampanga, which is under a less strict setup of Modified General Community Quarantine.