MANILA, Philippines -- The decision to cancel the upcoming season of the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) should help teams recover from financial issues and give them time to right the ship by 2021.
This, according to MPBL commissioner Kenneth Duremdes, who has admitted that at least three teams have filed for a leave of absence even before the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
The MPBL eventually decided to cancel the 2020 season, although they plan to finish the Lakan Cup that has been put on hold because of the health crisis. The expectation is for the league to start anew next year.
"It gives them more time to recover, and hopefully itong the whole year na wala tayong liga dahil kinansel natin, ito 'yung sinabi ni Senator (Manny Pacquiao) na baka 'yung mga teams na nagsa-suffer, na tinamaan ang mga sponsors nila, ay maka-recover for the next year na opening natin," Duremdes said.
"May mga teams na (nahihirapan) but ilan lang, at sabi nga ni Senator, may one year sila to recover," he added. "Hopefully, by next year, okay na sila and maituloy na natin ang next season."
Duremdes did not identify the teams that had asked for a leave of absence.
He did express his confidence that Pacquiao, the founder of the league, will come to the aid of the MPBL teams should they need it.
"Titingnan pa natin kung ano pa ang magagawa ng liga to help the teams na nagi-struggle," he said. "Hindi naman pababayaan ni Senator ang mga teams na nagi-struggle."
Duremdes added that Pacquiao remains upbeat about the future of the MPBL despite their decision to cancel the upcoming season, and the uncertainty surrounding sports because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Unlike the PBA or the Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3x3 league, there is no assurance that the MPBL can resume its season as it is an amateur league. At the moment, they are still waiting for permission from the government to continue their playoffs in a bubble environment.
"Confident tayo, same as our founder (Pacquiao). Ganoon siya ka-confident na itong nangyayari sa lahat sa atin ay trials na 'to na dumadaan talaga 'to," said Duremdes. "We just hope na 'yung one year nating walang liga, maka-recover lahat."
"It goes with the business," he added. "So kung ang businesses, by early first quarter next year, ay maka-recover, makaka-recover din ang mga teams."
Meanwhile, Duremdes assured that the four teams still in contention in the MPBL playoffs are committed to finishing the season.
The San Juan Knights and the Makati Super Crunch are tied 1-1 in the North Division finals, and the Davao Occidental Tigers and Basilan Steel are similarly tied 1-1 in the South Division finals.
"There are teams na eager to come back na. Notable doon 'yung apat na nasa division finals, and may chance pa to go to the national finals. Gusto na nila tapusin na rin," he said.