PBA teams get go-signal from IATF to start practicing

PBA teams can now begin scrimmages on May 18 at the earliest after the league obtained clearance from the Philippine government to practice in areas both under general community quarantine and modified GCQ.

Commissioner Willie Marcial confirmed the development Friday and said the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) acted favorably on the league's request.

"The Office of the President told me Thursday that the IATF has approved our request. We have to sort out logistics first, but practices and scrimmages are now allowed," he said in Filipino during a virtual press conference.

Scrimmages are still subject to health protocols imposed by the Games and Amusements Board, by the local government and by the league itself.

Marcial will still meet with coaches and managers to discuss health protocols for scrimmages, but he said teams can start getting swab tests to be able to begin getting ready for practices.

"You need to get swab tests seven days and two days before practicing. You can't practice if you don't comply," said the commissioner. "If we start by May 10, then we can begin these scrimmages by May 18."

Before the issuance of IATF's Resolution No. 114, the league's teams were barred from scrimmaging in areas not covered by MGCQ. Only group practices by batch were allowed.

This means teams can now practice in areas outside the NCR Plus bubble -- like Batangas City, which has already agreed to welcome team practices last week.

The city, which is in GCQ until May 30, has already allotted three practice facilities: Batangas Coliseum, Batangas State University, and the Lyceum of the Philippines - Batangas.

"We inspected all three venues today, and they passed the standards that needed to be met if we want to start practices here. Three to four teams can practice in one court," he said.

Marcial bared that "five to seven" teams have lightly committed to holding practices in Batangas City, while three others will play somewhere "up north" in Ilocos Norte, Subic or Pampanga.

"Unofficially, five to seven teams have expressed interest in practicing in Batangas," he revealed. "TNT, NLEX and Meralco will play somewhere up north, but that's no problem as long as they're in areas under MGCQ or GCQ, and as long as they comply with protocols and standards laid out by GAB, the LGU and the PBA."

Teams will employ a closed-circuit format in their travels to Batangas -- or in GCQ/MGCQ areas -- to be able to hold scrimmages.

Other squads who want to stay close to the venues can camp in the city's Hotel Pontefino, which is in a self-imposed bubble, according to Marcial.

"Other teams can stay here. Everything is provided for inside the hotel since Pontefino is in its own bubble," he said.

But if quarantine restrictions are eased in Metro Manila and surrounding provinces, Marcial said the league will ask the IATF if they can start practicing closer to home instead.

"We don't know the quarantine restrictions on May 15, so I'll have to clarify that with the IATF. We'll aso ask if we can practice in NCR or Antipolo if the government does shift to GCQ," said Marcial.