MANILA, Philippines -- Some of the country's national athletes can finally resume their training soon, after the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) agreed with the SM Group on the use of the Inspire Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna.
Inspire has served as the venue for several sports "bubbles" in the past few months, including the training camp of TNT Tropang Giga ahead of the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup, the Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3x3 President's Cup, and the training camp of the Philippine men's national basketball team ahead of the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 qualifiers.
Speaking on the PSC Hour radio show, PSC Commissioner Ramon Fernandez revealed that the agency has already agreed with the SM Group on holding a bubble for the boxing, taekwondo, and karate teams.
"Nakausap na namin ang Inspire Sports Academy sa Sy family, diyan sa Laguna. So 'yung boxing, taekwondo at karatedo will have their bubble training in Inspire in Laguna," he added. "Pina-finalize na lang 'yung details and 'yung agreement namin with SM Group."
National athletes have settled for virtual training and individual workouts because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but many have called for the resumption of face-to-face practice as well with Olympic qualifiers looming.
Fernandez noted that several athletes -- including three Olympic qualifiers -- are back in the swing of things abroad, but those who are still in the Philippines have fallen behind.
"Walang problema kay (Carlos) Yulo, kay (EJ) Obiena, si (Eumir) Marcial, nasa Las Vegas na si Marcial. Nasa abroad si Hidilyn Diaz, although she has still to go through the qualifying round, nasa Malaysia naman siya," said Fernandez. "
"'Yung mga swimmers natin, nasa Amerika naman. 'Yung judo athletes natin, nasa Japan na rin," he added. "Ang inaasikaso namin talaga na dapat makapag-umpisa na rin ay 'yung mga magka-qualify pa na atleta natin."
Among these athletes is Filipina boxer Nesthy Petecio who is looking to catch the last bus to Tokyo after failing to secure her ticket in last March's qualifiers. Taekwondo jin Kirstie Elaine Alora is also determined to get an Olympic berth.
Filipina boxer Irish Magno also needs to resume training after having qualified for the Tokyo Games last March.
According to Fernandez, they are now just "fine-tuning" the protocols that need to be followed in the Inspire bubble, but they are confident that the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) will approve of their plans.
"As far as the IATF is concerned, magkakaroon naman tayo talaga ng go-signal na diyan, for as long as masundan 'yung mga safety, medical protocols na dapat gampanan, dapat sundin natin," he said.
The budget for the bubble has been approved as well, Fernandez assured. Details of when the athletes can enter Inspire and start training are expected to be revealed soon.
"As far as the PSC is concerned, we've approved the budget for the bubble training in Laguna, so it's just the fine-tuning of the protocols for the bubble training. Maybe in a week's time, we should have a more concrete news regarding that," he said.