MANILA, Philippines -- The Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) set in motion its return on Wednesday, with the drafting of protocols for team practices amid the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The protocols, put together by commissioner Willie Marcial, were presented to the PBA Board of Governors on Wednesday in what was their first face-to-face meeting since league activities were suspended in March due to the outbreak.
The letter will be submitted to the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, as well as to the Department of Health (DOH) on Thursday.
"Kakatapos lang ng meeting namin, at nagawa na ang sulat which is addressed to chairman (Karlo) Nograles and co-chairman (Francisco) Duque," said PBA chairman Ricky Vargas.
"There are also some people who offered to help us follow this up and work with us with the IATF," he added.
Marcial described the protocols as "strict," as they want the players to remain as safe as possible, even as they are determined to salvage what is left of the league's 45th season. He also stressed that the protocols crafted were about the teams' return to practices, as protocols for games are another matter entirely.
Aside from temperature checks and use of alcohol, only four players, one health officer, and one trainer are allowed per practice session. The practice venues also need to be disinfected up to hospital standards before teams can take the court. No player is allowed to use the showers in the practice facility.
The players will also be tested for COVID-19 every 10 days, according to Marcial.
"Kung apat sila (na players), walang dalawahan. Walang scrimmages," Marcial said. "Walang game. Conditioning lang talaga. Kung apat sa isang court, 'yung social distancing magagawa namin."
"All the protocols that we're putting in place will only be as good as the cooperation we can get from everybody," said PBA vice chairman Bobby Rosales. "Our players are professionals, so they know their responsibility."
"I think magko-cooperate naman sila, being professional players," he added.
Marcial and the PBA Board are optimistic that the IATF and DOH will approve of the measures that they put together. Once given the go-signal by the IATF and the DOH, Marcial plans to call another meeting, this time with the team managers, to discuss how to proceed.
"Sana makapag-practice na tayo by July, baka earlier pa," said Marcial, who also confirmed that the PBA wants teams to stick to a "bubble environment" to limit contact when they return to practice.
"'Pag pumasa na sa task force 'yung aming proposal, papatawag ko ang mga team managers kung paano ang process ng bubble. As of now, 'yun ang minimum na sitwasyon. Tapos, depende pa rin sa mga teams, kasi baka gusto ng mga teams na isang hotel sila, 'di ba," he explained.
"Pero 'yun ang protocol natin, kung magho-hotel sila or saan sila pupunta. Ipapaalam sa PBA."
The PBA opened its 45th season on March 8, but stopped all activities just three days later to help curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. The Board will decide on the fate of the season in August, with a shortened campaign possible.
(For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website).