EVEN the best-laid plans can go awry. PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial knows this.
This explains why Marcial remains apprehensive despite the PBA getting the much-awaited go-signal from the IATF to proceed with its bubble in Pampanga.
Bases and Conversion Development Authority chief Vince Dizon made the announcement yesterday in an online press conference together with Marcial, league chairman Ricky Vargas and CDC chief Noel Manankil.
The 12 teams have also been allowed to do inter-team scrimmages upon arrival at Clark on Monday and Tuesday.
Those new dates were arrived at following the completion of swab tests for the contingent and the mandatory five-day home quarantine.
The slight delay means official games can start only on Oct. 11, but that was not enough to dampen the enthusiasm of league officials.
“We are happy, we are ready, the players are ready to go. I guess it’s all now in the hands of our Commissioner to see this is executed to perfection,” said Vargas.
The go-signal is provisional. The IATF has the option to take it back should there be an outbreak inside the bubble during the PBA’s stay there, which is projected to last until mid-December.
Marcial, Dizon, Manankil and everybody involved have put in place stringent health and safety protocols to ensure smooth sailing, but there is still a bit of apprehension on the part of Marcial.
“Ayokong maging kompiyansa,” Marcial admitted to Malaya-Business Insight in an earlier interview. “Kasi para sa akin wala namang totally safe na lugar, iyung zero-COVID.”
Marcial knows the coronabirus could throw a monkey wrench on the PBA’s plans and he could only brace for any eventuality, including having to push back the season resumption further.
“Kung magkaroon ng malaking problema, ihihinto natin ito (restart),” said Marcial. “Tapos titingnan natin kung p’wede na tayo ng January o February.”
But that is not the worst-case scenario.
“Kapag magkaroon ng mga kaso at bawiin ng task force ‘yung go-signal,” cautioned Marcial. “Kapag nagkaganoon, baka mapuwersa tayong i-cancel na lang.”
Yet optimism remains on a high, stemming from the stringent safety protocols being put in place.
The PBA has combined all its own safety protocols with those of the GAB, Clark, health department and IATF to make sure the site, as well as the playing venue, remain free of infections.
Around 350 people will be inside the bubble with a maximum of 25 persons per team.
Throughout the PBA’s stay inside Clark no visitor from the outside can come in as part of the stringent safety protocols to be implemented. Anybody who goes out will never be allowed back in, no matter the reason.
As part of the guidelines, all members of the PBA contingent will be tested on-site on a weekly basis by Clark’s own medical staff.
Stiff penalties will be slapped on bubble-breakers, with Marcial citing a one-month, no-pay suspension from his team, plus a P100,000 fine and a five-game suspension at the start of next season from the PBA.
Such protocols, also covering the staff of the Quest Hotel where the PBA contingent will be housed, were the main reasons why the site was chosen for the bubble.
Despite all these, Marcial said he would only breathe easier once a champion has emerged.
“Hindi natin alam. May isang kutsara o tinidor lang… pero ‘yung staff naman naka-bubble din,” said Marcial. “Dapat wala (infection). Kami-kami lang nandoon.”