By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter
GOT the breakthrough it was angling for after the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) gave its nod for the league to resume practices, the Philippine Basketball Association said it would use the next few weeks building further traction towards a possible resumption of action.
Shut since March 11 following its decision to suspend its season with the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic taking further root in the country and mitigating measures by the government against the spread of the virus made it impossible to hold the staging of the matches, the PBA said it welcomes the IATF decision announced on Friday for leagues like it to resume practices and that it is determined to build on it moving forward.
“We are very happy with the development and that the IATF considered our request for our teams and players to at least squeeze in some activities, particularly practicing and conditioning,” PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial told BusinessWorld in an interview.
“This is a significant step towards our push to resuming the season and we will use the IATF approval as a direction as we continue to work in the coming days,” he added.
In his daily press briefing on July 3, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque announced the IATF decision to allow the conduct of health-enhancing physical activities and sports amid the COVID-19 pandemic as recommended by pertinent government agencies.
The decision paved the way for the return to some activities of sports organizations like the PBA and the Philippines Football League (PFL).
“It was agreed upon in the IATF to adopt the decision of the technical working group. The Philippine Sports Commission, Games and Amusement Board (GAB) and the Department of Health approved the joint administrative order on the guidelines on the conduct of health-enhancing physical activities and sports during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Mr. Roque.
In the lead-up to the decision, the PBA, along with other sporting bodies like the Philippine Football Federation (PFF), made representations to the GAB for guidance to convince the IATF, the lead body in the country’s fight against COVID-19, to allow sports to return gradually, first with practices and then for matches to resume in different leagues.
Their request was formally discussed by GAB with the IATF’s technical working group, and GAB Chairman Bahm Mitra said it was warmly received.
In its request to the IATF, the PBA presented health and safety protocols to be used as guides as it tries to make its way back.
Among the guidelines is that during practices only six people, including four players, are allowed at a time. Temperatures of players will have to be taken before the practice, while sanitizers and alcohols will be put in strategic places for use by the teams. Practice facilities will also have to be disinfected before and after use.
The PBA underscored that no scrimmages would take place, only conditioning for players. Players and staff members are also prohibited from taking showers after the workout.
The “no test, no practice” policy would be strictly imposed, meaning players have to be tested for COVID-19 first for them to be allowed to participate in the practices.
According to GAB the request of the PBA et al was unanimously approved by the IATF but Mr. Marcial said the league would continue to fine-tune its protocols to still see what is lacking.
The PBA is set to convene its board to further discuss its next moves. A meeting has also been set with the league’s coaches and team managers.
Two weeks ago, Mr. Marcial met with player-representatives of the 12 member teams and discussed with them the league measures.
If all matters fall into their proper places, the league is looking at resuming the season by September.