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Why the PBA could still cancel the season even if the enhanced community quarantine is lifted

A cloud of uncertainty continues to hover over the 2020 PBA season after the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) was extended until May 15 by the Philippine government. But even lifting it won't provide the PBA any firm assurances.

League commissioner Willie Marcial conceded that the entire 2020 season could be put on hold since the country has yet to effectively curb the threat of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

"We may have to play one conference if the ECQ continues to get extended, but we're also not ruling out the possibility of having to cancel the whole season," Marcial told ESPN5.com in Filipino.

The PBA board of governors originally planned to reconvene online around April 30 after the first ECQ deadline was extended, but Marcial said that the conversations will have to be put on hold anew.

Marcial also tempered expectations of a quick restart by the league.

"If the ECQ is lifted, it doesn't mean we can hold games immediately. Teams will probably need a month to practice and get in shape again, and the government might still not even allow mass gatherings after this," he explained.

The latter part of his statement is telling, and based on public statements made by the government in recent days, fans may be in for an extended wait.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque had said that a general community quarantine (GCQ), which will be imposed starting May 1 in select areas not included under the extended ECQ, will be the new normal until a vaccine for the coronavirus is developed.

"We are no longer back to normal as we know it. The GCQ is the new normal," he said. "As long as there is still no vaccine, we cannot go back to normal as we know it."

During MalacaƱang's announcement of the extension on Friday, Roque also laid out recommendations made by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) for a relaxed quarantine directive.

Once the National Capital Region (NCR) shifts to GCQ, industries will be divided into four sectors, but only three will be allowed to work on varying capacities.

- Sector 1, which can resume 100 percent of operations, covers businesses under agriculture, fishery, forestry, food manufacturing and its entire supply chain, supermarkets, restaurants (for takeout and delivery), hospitals, logistics, water, energy, Internet, telecommunications, and media.

- Sector 2, which can operate at 50-100 percent strength, covers businesses manufacturing of electronics and exports, e-commerce and delivery for essential and non-essential items, repair and maintenance services, and housing and office services.

- Sector 3, which can field 50 percent of its workers on-site and 50 percent at home, covers businesses under financial services, business process outsourcing (BPO), other non-leisure wholesale and retail trade, and other non-leisure services.

- Businesses under sector 4 -- which include those operating under leisure, amusement, gaming, and fitness; "kid" industry, and tourism -- will still be closed. This also covers schools, malls and construction, as well as all mass gatherings.

The PBA may find itself in the same classification as that of schools and malls under sector 4, which precludes the operation of those engaged in the business of leisure, amusement, gaming and fitness. Other restrictions, including curfews and a ban on mass gatherings, will also be imposed, further putting the league's operations in a bind.

Everything is theoretical at this point, however, and Marcial said the league's top officials will continue to focus on what they can control for now.

"We're always thinking about the safety of the fans, the players, the management and everyone involved in the PBA's operations," he said.

Among the PBA's continued duties will be to financially support its game-day staff and donating personal protective equipment (PPE) to select cities and hospitals in Luzon.

Protective gear, according to Marcial, have earlier been distributed to hospitals in Pasig, Antipolo and Binan, with more to be provided to Pasay and Talisay, Batangas, as well as the National Center for Mental Health in Mandaluyong, the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City, and the Batangas Provincial Hospital, among many others.