By JONAS TERRADO
The PBA is slated to return this week with plenty of question marks after the government placed back stricter measures amid the sudden rise of COVID-19 cases in the aftermath of the holiday season.
Games in the Governors’ Cup prior to the break saw the presence of fans under a limited capacity at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, but the league will likely take a step back with Metro Manila being placed back under Alert Level 3 on Monday, Jan. 3.
Cases grew to a daily count of about 3,600 on New Year’s Day and the trend could go upwards, especially now that local transmission of the Omicron variant was confirmed by the Department of Health.
While guidelines of the Inter-Agency Task Force will likely allow the presence of fans, albeit in a reduced capacity, the fluidity of the pandemic has put the PBA in a tough situation.
Commissioner Willie Marcial, however, said in an interview with a handful of scribes who covered the PBA 3×3 Grand Finals last Dec. 29 that the league has already started to make contingency plans.
“Pinagusapan namin ng mga team governors na pwede tayong mawalan ng fans at saan ang venue, papaano pag bubble at siguro kanya-kanyang hotel dito sa Metro Manila,” Marcial said.
“Halos lahat ng scenario, tinitignan natin. Wag lang tayong ipatigil. Worse case, bubble tayo or walang fans so okay tayo dun,” he added.
The PBA’s last two conferences have seen delays due to the fluidity of the pandemic, including this season’s Philippine Cup.
Games of the first conference began in mid-July at the Ynares Sports Arena in Pasig City, with teams being granted permission to allow teams to observe a home-to-venue setup.
But an increase in cases led to a month-long postponement before the league was able to find a venue in Bacolor, Pampanga in order to finish the tourney. Under the setup, teams had to stay in hotels or quarters within the province.
The Governors’ Cup opened last Dec. 8 at Ynares without fans before the league received an approval by the Quezon City government to stage the tournament at the Big Dome with fans.
Pasay City has also allowed the league to play its games in the city, with a pair of doubleheaders slated Jan. 15 to 16 at the Mall of Asia Arena.