MANILA, Philippines -- Hope is rising among UAAP executives that they can soon put together plans for the new season, due in large part to the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in the country.
The UAAP cut short its 82nd season in April 2020, and announced in December 2020 that it will cancel Season 83 outright. The league initially planned to open Season 84 in September, although this is not cast in stone.
League officials are more optimistic now, however, as the COVID-19 vaccine becomes available.
"The game-changer would be the vaccine rollouts," UAAP executive director Atty. Rebo Saguisag said on "UAAP Talk." "The light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter, if I may… We're being more optimistic right now."
According to UAAP president Emmanuel Calanog of host school De La Salle University, they had already put together protocols for the return to training of student-athletes in late 2020. However, those plans were shelved when COVID-19 cases in the country began to spike again.
Calanog believes that those protocols may be "put back into play" and sent to the Inter-Agency Task Force for approval now that vaccines are available.
"The protocols, as discussed at the time, were I think technically approved at the CHED level already," Calanog said. "I was discussing with (Saguisag) earlier the possibility of probably getting back to CHED and discussing with them if there would be any changes to the protocols knowing that the vaccines technically are already available."
More than a return to training, Saguisag said the vaccine will make the return of actual competitions possible.
"Ang tinitingnan nga namin ngayon actually is with the vaccines, is not only just the return to training, but actually trying to come up with a proposal, that now we can actually concretely discuss (a) return to competition," he said.
"Ganoong na 'yung level ng plans namin. When we go back to CHED or the relevant government agencies, with the vaccine rollout, mag-iiba na 'yung premise mo," he added.
"Now, probably, mas madali na. Not only training, but returning to competition as well. Of course, nothing's been approved officially, but… (it's a) game-changer, like I said."
National team athletes were recently included in the priority list for COVID-19 vaccines, and last Friday, those who will compete in the Tokyo Olympics and 31st Southeast Asian Games in Hanoi received their first dose.
Calanog, who is already fully vaccinated, sayid La Salle has taken steps to educate their students about the vaccine and to encourage them to get the jabs once available.
"That was one of the webinars that we had for our athletes, was really for them to be able to ask questions to a medical professional on the science of the vaccine, so that we could encourage our athletes to get vaccinated once it is available," he said.
"We feel that the vaccines will probably be one of the things that will help us make sure that tournaments will be run in Season 84."