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Blackwater faces possible sanction for practicing before official resumption

The PBA could impose sanctions on the Blackwater Elite for practicing ahead of the league's go-signal on the official resumption of practices.

Blackwater owner Dioceldo said on TV5's Sports Page on Monday that his team practiced over the weekend following the league's guidelines.

"I personally saw them last Saturday. I went to the practice. I saw the protocol. What we're doing is very strict and what we did is we put the teams in 8x8. Today will be eight players in two hours, four players per hour," said Sy on the show.

Commissioner Willie Marcial told ESPN5.com on Tuesday that he talked to Sy and stressed that teams are still not allowed to hold closed-door training sessions.

"Titingnan ko muna kung papaano. Nag-usap naman kami kanina. Titingnan ko pa kung ano 'yung sanction," said Marcial. "Wala pang clearance. Hindi pa pwede 'yun."

After talking with Marcial, Sy told ESPN5.com that he doesn't understand why the league is making a big deal out of the situation.

"Of course we have all the required protocols -- two players per court plus a ball boy, so four players and two ball boys," explained Sy. "I don't see anything wrong and we did rapid test on all the team members. We didn't break any law. I don't see what the big fuss is."

The league is targeting to resume practices on July 22, Marcial said, but the date has yet to be finalized. Before teams start practicing, though, Marcial said they must first undergo swab testing three days prior. He added that he will talk with team managers to discuss scheduling and procedure in administering the swab tests.

Once practices resume, Marcial stressed that all 12 teams will strictly observe the protocols approved by the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID). All team players and coaches are set to follow the "closed circuit" rule -- which means they are only allowed to go from their homes and back. However, if they do other activities such as grocery shopping, the players must record it in a logbook as a rudimentary form of contact tracing.

During their respective practices, a team will be divided into clusters of four, along with a coach and a safety officer for a total of six persons within the area. At the conclusion of every session, they will be required to leave the facility immediately. The cluster will serve another purpose because if one member of that group will test positive for COVID-19, only that particular set of players will be barred instead of the whole team.

Violators for any of the protocols will receive fines. If protocols are proven to be broken outside the court, players will be fined P5,000 initially, and will double at every instance. If a safety officer catches a cager violating a protocol in the act, then he will be immediately fined P20,000 on the spot and can pay up to 15 days after.

Marcial expects that the league's players will cooperate will all the guidelines.

"Sinabi ko rin sa mga players sa meeting ko na hindi lang naman para sa inyo e, para sa kasama niyo. Para sa pamilya ng kasama niyo. Magtulong-tulong na tayo. Magsabi kayo kung saan kayo pumunta, may protocol naman eh. Pag 'di ka nagsabi, may protocol ka na, may fine ka pa sa amin," expounded Marcial at the weekly Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum which was streamed on Facebook.

In the event that a player does test positive, it will be the prerogative of the team to divulge the identity, but it should be reported to the league office.

Marcial also said that journalists and fans are barred from practice sessions. When the games resume at the Araneta Coliseum, all media practitioners will have to undergo testing as well. Broadcast crews, meanwhile, will be kept at a minimum.

The commissioner admitted that dealing with the situation has given him numerous sleepless nights, and he believes that the worst is yet to come.

"Mas mahirap pag umandar na ito. Kasi kakabahan na ako na baka may mag-positive, kung may mag-text man sa akin, 'yun pala trade lang or may magtatanong, mas kakabahan ako e. Pag nag-outbreak to, wala 'pang PBA, sa akin tatama e," Marcial shared.

He added that the league remains concerned about the growing number of cases in the country.

"Nakakatakot kung paano umatake ang pandemic na ito, concerned tayo. At kung tumataas-taas yan, bumababa-baba ang chances naming makabalik," he explained.

Despite this, he remains upbeat that the IATF will allow scrimmages soon as they formulate additional guidelines next month.

"Sa akin kasi, sa katapusan ng buwan, sana baka [modified general community quarantine], kasi malaking bagay yun. Scrimmages lang, walang tune-up games. Scrimmages lang ng mga players. Walang tune-up."

Marcial shared that the league is looking to restart the season in October.

"Pag lumampas na tayo ng mid-October, baka mag-cancel na tayo," said Marcial.

ESPN5's Richard Dy contributed to this report.