MANILA, Philippines -- The Basilan Steel on Saturday finally exited the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) bubble in Subic, after staying at the Subic Bay Peninsular Hotel for the last 12 days.
Nine members of the team stayed at the hotel while they waited for the result of their third RT-PCR test. The team arrived in Subic last March 8, expecting to play in a do-or-die game against Davao Occidental for a spot in the MPBL Lakan Cup Finals.
However, they had to stay in the quarantine hotel before entering the main bubble itself. Unfortunately for the team, two of their players tested positive for COVID-19, who were then sent back to their respective provinces.
The league and Basilan agreed to another test that would be administered on March 15. If one member tests positive, they have to forfeit their win-or-go-home game vs Davao Occidental as the team still had contact with each other inside Peninsular.
Four more members of the Basilan delegation tested positive, giving Davao Occidental the Finals spot.
Basilan team owner Hegem Furigay on Thursday revealed on social media that their prolonged stay at the quarantine hotel has been eating their operational expenses. He demanded a refund of their expenses and expressed anger at how they were treated by the league.
On Sunday, the league announced that its sponsor, Chooks-to-Go, and founder Senator Manny Pacquiao have come together to help Basilan Steel.
"At the end of the day, Councilor Hegem Furigay and Basilan are still our partners in the league who brought us countless memories during the Lakan season. It's unfortunate that they had to forfeit their game but it is the protocols given to the league by the Department of Health," said Chooks-to-Go president Ronald Mascariñas.
"For our part, as a staunch partner and sponsor of the MPBL, me and Senator Manny are shouldering the cost of Basilan's stay in Subic Bay Peninsular."
"We at the MPBL would like to thank Ronald for helping Basilan. This is not part of their responsibilities as our sponsor but he still helped us out. Chooks-to-Go is definitely not just a sponsor in our league but also our partner," said Pacquiao.
"To Basilan, I hope this shows that the MPBL, Chooks-to-Go, and I are committed to each team despite the situation given to us."
On Facebook, Basilan coach Jerson Cabiltes also criticized the MPBL, saying that the league "did not wait for us" even after a year-long delay of the playoffs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.