'Crucial' February looms for PBA

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 10 2022 03:36 PM

Nearly 5,000 fans watched the
Nearly 5,000 fans watched the "Christmas Clasico" at the Araneta Coliseum. PBA Media Bureau.

MANILA, Philippines -- PBA commissioner Willie Marcial anticipates that some difficult decisions will be made next month, as the league continues to keep a close watch on the COVID-19 situation in the country.

The PBA has already halted the Governors' Cup and ordered its ball clubs to stop holding scrimmages, after the National Capital Region (NCR) was placed under Alert Level 3 due to the spike in COVID-19 cases.

Marcial, appearing on "The Chasedown" over the weekend, is admittedly lamenting the stoppage, as the PBA had already welcomed back fans for the first time since March 2020. Nearly 5,000 fans attended the league's Christmas Day games at the Araneta Coliseum, including the "Manila Clasico" between Barangay Ginebra and Magnolia.

"Sayang, (may) momentum na," said Marcial. "Biruin mo, nagsimula tayo sa 1,800 na tao… Hanggang lumampas tayo, kulang-kulang na 5,000 noong Pasko. Sayang, andoon na 'yung momentum, dire-diretso na tayo."

"Pero hindi ako manghihinayang kung makakaligtas lahat. Para sa atin naman 'to. Sana maintindihan ako ng mga fans at ng mga team owners," he added.

Marcial assured that the PBA is monitoring the COVID-19 situation in Metro Manila in order to determine the best course of action. The hope of the PBA Board, he said, is that the situation improves by February so that teams can resume practicing, with games set to follow.

"For the meantime lang naman 'to. Siguro, sana itong February, okay na tayo," he said.

The OCTA research group warned last week that the country might report 20,000 new COVID-19 cases daily by this week. The Department of Health also projected that the new wave of rising COVID-19 cases will peak by the end of January.

On Sunday, there were 28,707 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the country’s total to 2,965,447. The positivity rate also reached a new record high of 44%.

"Crucial ang February," said Marcial. "Siguro, magde-desisyon na kung anong gagawin sa imports, paano na, made-delay pa ba natin. Crucial ang Feb."

Foreign imports remain in the country, with the PBA having allowed teams to do small group training sessions. 

The league has a few options on how it will progress with its season, including possibly holding the Governors' Cup in a bubble. The Games and Amusements Board (GAB) allows the conduct of professional sports in areas under Alert Level 3 if it is in a bubble set-up.

The PBA completed its 2020 and 2021 All-Filipino conferences in bubbles in Pampanga.

Both Marcial and PBA chairman Ricky Vargas said the bubble option has been discussed, but at the moment, their priority is the health and safety of everyone involved in the league.

"Marami ding natamaan na players natin at saka referees na nagka-COVID," Vargas told former PBA commissioner Noli Eala on "Power and Play" last Saturday. "It's well within the national average … about 20, 25% of our players and even our referees got infected."

"So, they're recovering very well, that's one. While we could have started earlier, ang problema is we also want to make it safe for everybody. So that we can continue to give exciting games," Vargas added.

"Kasi kung may kasamang takot na nasa isip nila, ang problema noon is we will have a half-hearted game that's being played."

The PBA last held games on December 26 at the Araneta Coliseum.