THE PBA’s plan to resume its stalled 45th season is founded on the premise that it would get the necessary approval from the Inter-Agency Task Force, the government’s policy-making body regarding the coronavirus pandemic.
The people who know best believe such a nod should be forthcoming, considering the stringent health and safety protocols to be implemented for the PBA’s version of an NBA-style bubble at the Clark Freeport and Economic Zone in Pampanga.
Resuming the PBA would at least help alleviate some of the sufferings being endured the last few months by the league’s legions of fans.
“Ang ating direksyon ay paunti-unti na kailangan na nating buksan ang ekonomiya. And naisip po namin, ‘What better symbol of trying to go into the new normal than restarting the most important pastime in the Philippines?’” said Bases and Conversion Development Authority chief Sec. Vince Dizon.
“Gusto talaga namin makatulong hindi lamang sa PBA kundi sa milyon-milyong PBA fans para mabigyan naman natin sila ng kasiyahan kahit na lahat tayo medyo hirap na hirap sa COVID-19.”
Among the government slogans during the outbreak is staying safe and everybody concerned is seeing to that, according to Dizon.
“Naniniwala naman po kami na kung in place naman po ang ating mga protocols at masisigurado natin na talagang very safe ang ating gagawin tulad ng ginagawa nila sa NBA sa Disney World, tingin ko naman po magiging open ang ating IATF at gobyerno para dito,” said Dizon.
Dizon’s assessment should carry a lot of weight. Aside from heading the BCDA, he is also the Presidential Adviser on Flagship Projects and the deputy chief implementer of the national action plan against COVID and one of the country’s designated testing czars.
The PBA has written the IATF letters requesting a green light for inter-team scrimmages to start in Clark on Sept. 27 and to finish out the stalled Philippine Cup beginning Oct. 9.
Those plans depends on whether the IATF gives its stamp of approval and Dizon strongly believes that would be secured in view of the safety protocols being put in place.
Foremost on the safety list is the testing for the virus, which will be shouldered by the Clark Development Corp, which boasts of its own molecular laboratory and a very capable hospital in The Medical City annex.
“Sasagutin na po ng Clark Development Corporation ang testing ng lahat ng ating mga players, coaches, staff at lahat ng mai-involve sa bubble,” Dizon said in a recent episode of Sports Page.
The tests started yesterday right after the 12 teams submitted their mandatory 25-man rosters, including players, coaches, staff and officials for the bubble by the 5 p.m. deadline.
More tests will be conducted when the PBA contingent starts entering their accommodations on Saturday at the Quest Hotel-Mimosa and every two weeks thereafter until the tournament’s projected culmination by mid-December.
“Pagdating sa (Sept. 26), antigen test. Swab na naman ‘yon. Pagkatapos noon, protocols ng DOH o kaya ng Task Force, gagawin namin ‘yon,” said Dizon.
The safety protocols extend beyond the hotel grounds and will include the practice facilities and the games venue at the Angeles University Foundation gym, some 10 minutes away.
“Hindi lang po ang Clark, pati ang Quest ilalagay natin sa bubble. Lahat ng venues for practice and the games itself, lahat po ‘yan naka-bubble,” related Dizon.
“Ibig sabihin, lahat po ng papasok diyan ay kailangan strict. Ang protocols for testing and checking for all clinical symptoms, gagawin po ‘yan ng ating health experts at ating mga doctor.”
Even the buses that will shuttle the players and other games personnel will be kept safe through constant sanitation.
Clark’s own security force would help see to it all the safety protocols are strictly followed.
“Ang kinaganda po kasi ng Clark,” he explained, “ay very secure po ‘yan. It’s an entirely gated area. Very, very strict po tayo sa loob ng Mimosa,” Dizon pointed out.
“Apart from ‘yung Clark na gated, ‘yung Mimosa itself is gated. Lahat po ng entrances and exits ng Mimosa, isasara po natin ‘yan during the bubble. And the PBA will have exclusive use of the Quest Hotel.”