MANILA, Philippines -- The Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) is preparing even stricter protocols for teams to follow in holding scrimmages, as well as for the league's eventual return to actual basketball games.
The PBA is waiting for official documents from the Inter-Agency Task Force and the Games and Amusements Board before giving teams the go-signal to resume practices, hopefully by next week.
PBA commissioner Willie Marcial and the Board of Governors have put together strict protocols, which require players to be tested for COVID-19 every 10 days and bars teams from holding scrimmages. Only four players, one coach, and one safety officer are allowed at a court per session.
The protocols for scrimmages, Marcial said, will be even stricter.
"Gumawa na kami ng protocols para sa scrimmage. Marami, mas mahigpit tayo doon, mas masinsin 'yung protocols natin kasi scrimmages na," he said.
Marcial intends to write the IATF again in August, this time to ask permission for teams to hold scrimmages. However, this still depends on the discipline of the players when it comes to following their guidelines.
The PBA is implementing a "closed circuit" system, where players will go from their homes, to their vehicles, and to their practice venues and back again. Their movements have to be tracked in a log book that is monitored by the league.
"Titingnan natin kung papaano, 'yun nga, sa logs ng mga players, kung paano 'yung disiplina nila. Makikita natin eh, kung pwede na ba tayo sa scrimmages," said Marcial. "Kaya itong baby step natin na practices, malaking bagay 'to."
The hope is for Metro Manila to transition into modified general community quarantine by the end of the month, as Marcial believes that will boost their chances of holding scrimmages. President Rodrigo Duterte announced Wednesday night that the National Capital Region is still under general community quarantine.
The PBA Board will then decide in August if the league's 45th season can still be salvaged. They managed to play just one game in the All-Filipino Cup before the pandemic forced the league to halt all activities last March 11.
Marcial said protocols for actual games will be even more stringent. They are already in communication with the league's broadcast partner for their own guidelines, as well as with Araneta Coliseum, which is the likely venue of the league's return.
"Kinakausap na natin ang Araneta, kasi as of now, Araneta pa lang ang ano. Kasi 'yung MOA (Arena), ginamit, Cuneta (Astrodome) ginamit sa COVID," he said. "So Araneta pa lang."
"May sarili silang protocol, may protocols din ang GAB, may protocols rin tayo," he added.
This early, Marcial is already planning for a limited media presence at the games. He said reporters will have to be tested for COVID-19 as well, and it is possible that only 10 media members will be allowed to cover games. Interview protocols will have to change as well.
"Paano (ang) media? Sampu lang ang kailangan. Photographers, baka magpadala lang tayo ng litrato," he said. "'Di ba kung minimal, the better. Pero kung papaano, 'yun ang pag-uusapan pa."
All of their plans, of course, are dependent on the COVID-19 situation in the country.
On Wednesday, there were 1,392 additional COVID-19 cases, raising the total of confirmed cases in the Philippines to 58,850. There are a total of 20,976 recoveries, and 1,614 deaths.
"Nakakatakot kung paano umatake itong pandemic na 'to. Concerned tayo," Marcial admitted. "At 'pag tumataas-taas 'yan, bumababa-baba 'yung chances namin makabalik. Tataas 'yan, bababa 'yung chances. Bababa 'yan, tayo naman ang tataas na magkaroon ng chances makabalik."
As optimistic as he is that the All-Filipino Cup can resume, Marcial is also aware that they may have to end up cancelling the whole season altogether.
"Mid-October, kaya pa namin 'yan. 'Pag lumampas ng mid-October, baka magka-cancel na tayo," he said.
(For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website).