MANILA - A country club within Muntinlupa City's prominent exclusive subdivision was ordered by the local government to stop operations of its golf course on Monday after reportedly holding a tournament there in violation of quarantine regulations.
The board of the Alabang Country Club in Ayala Alabang Village, however, said the event held in late August was not a regular tournament but a game held for select birthday celebrators of a club subgroup and had observed distancing and other protocols.
They denied the event was hosted by the club since the board had not approved it.
Police officers and staff of the city's Business Permits and Licensing Office served a closure order signed by mayor Jaime Fresnedi to the country club at 5 pm, Muntinlupa public information officer Tez Navarro confirmed to ABS-CBN News.
The staff also implemented a cease and desist order from their office, posting a notice at the entrance to the country club.
The city mayor's order said they found "probable cause" that safety and health protocols were violated by the alleged tournament held on August 28 and 29.
"...finding probable cause that there was indeed violation of safety and health protocols warranting the suspension of the business permit issued in your favor, the City Government of Muntinlupa hereby orders you to immediately stop the operations of the golf course upon receipt of this letter.")
It also cited a recommendation from interior Sec. Eduardo Año to temporarily shut down the golf course after a police investigation reported that guidelines of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases were also breached by the event.
Golf is one of the sports allowed under the General Community Quarantine currently covering Metro Manila until the end of October.
However, according to health restrictions which include mandating use of own golf equipment and allowing only 3 players per flight, tournaments are prohibited until further notice.
But in a statement posted on its website Saturday, the Alabang Country Club, Inc. board of directors disputed newspaper reports which described as a tournament the event of the Alabang Club 515 Golfers Association for its April to August birthday celebrators.
The country club board instead said the event was a "friendly game" in keeping with the club's no-tournament policy, but acknowledged it could be misconstrued by the public as a tournament.
"If there was any violation of the IATF rules on our part, we sincerely apologize and be assured that such was inadvertently done, without bad faith or malice," the statement signed by club board chairman Homer Perez said.
Based on the findings of a special committee they formed to investigate the event, the country club board said the competition was held "within the parameters set by the IATF rules".
Among the precautions observed, according to the board, were that the event was held over two days to limit the number of players, no spectators were present, reservations via SMS were still made individually for the participants, only packed lunches were served, and other activities were done via online meeting.
They added that masks were also worn, but were taken off for a short while for pictures, some of which were published in the news stories.
Still, the board decided to issue a "strong reprimand" to country club members who participated in the event and ordered the Club 515 group to release a letter of apology to other club members.
The country club said it would heighten its measures to ensure members and employees would comply with the IATF guidelines.
In its letter posted along with the club statement, the Club 515 group reiterated its event did not violate safety protocols.
("We reiterate that there were no violations of safety protocols during the games and no congregation ever occurred.")
The group said there was also no need for the Alabang Country Club board to approve the event since the Club 515 participants were merely playing regular games.
"It may have looked like it was a tournament, but it was a birthday celebration where members played their regular games and were treated by one of their members celebrating his birthday, with free packed lunches and give-aways," the letter said.
It added there were also marshals going around the course to ensure players wore masks and observed protocols, with no one being cited for violation.
The 18-hole golf course, which covers 74 hectares, was disinfected in July after a golfer who played there and at another course in Cavite tested positive for COVID-19.