Vaccination key to launch

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - April 22, 2021 - 12:00am

PBA commissioner Willie Marcial stressed the other day that vaccinating the league family from players to utility staff is key to launching the next season, both in the 3x3 and 5x5 platforms. He said a meeting is being arranged with the IATF next week to clarify safety guidelines relating to COVID-19 conditions and to get an update on the government’s expanding vaccination program.

Because less personnel is involved, 3x3 may kick off even before 5x5, said Marcial but still, the timing will depend on the availability of the vaccine and the IATF’s guidelines. At the moment, NCR-plus remains under MECQ which means no clearance for even limited individual workouts. From MECQ, the next progressive step is GCQ then MGCQ. It will only be under MGCQ that 5x5 scrimmages will be allowed. Once 5x5 scrimmages are back, the PBA will restore salaries to previous levels. Starting next month, players will take a 20 percent cut on salaries. The reduction will also apply to team managers and coaches but not to utility staff.

Marcial said he took up the salary cuts with team captains and head coaches in a conference and there were no objections.  “It’s about time we contribute to teams, team owners and the league since they supported us the last 16 months,” he said. “Ipakita natin sa team owners ang ating tulong. In many companies, nagtanggal sila ng empleyado pero hindi sa PBA. Sa ibang companies, no work, no pay pero sa PBA even kung walang games, tuloy ang sweldo. Pagbalik ng 5x5 scrimmages, balik na rin ang full sweldo pero yung nabawas, yan na ang contribution namin sa liga.” The cuts apply to the PBA office staff, too.

It was Marcial who proposed the salary cuts to the PBA Board of Governors last Monday. PBA vice chairman Bobby Rosales of Terrafirma said, ‘the Board in unison appreciates the sacrifice of the Commissioner, staff, players and coaches … because of the uncertainty of when to open the next season, the Commissioner is exercising prudence … the objective is to launch as soon as possible but after suspending the opening last April 18, we’re on hold … the first order is to get the PBA family vaccinated, I don’t think we have a problem with supply … the Commissioner has arranged vaccines with Red Cross, the MVP Group has a commitment to provide vaccines and the SMC Group has offered to vaccinate the PBA family. But our concern is when the vaccines will be available.”

Marcial said if everyone is vaccinated and the league can start the season in May or June, the schedule will accommodate two conferences playing up to February. If later than June, it may be down to just one conference. Rosales said the bubble option isn’t being discounted. “It’s still on the table” he said. But the direction is to avoid the bubble not only because it’s costly but also because it impacts on mental health. Gov. Matthew Manotoc has reached out to offer Ilocos Norte to host a bubble while former Rizal Gov. Jun-Jun Ynares is making available the Ynares Center in Antipolo for a semi-bubble if it’s cleared by the IATF.

There will be 16 teams in the 3x3 league with six “external” entities Zamboanga Valientes, Master Sardines, Geanaux Systems, Big Boss Cement, Phenom-BRT Sumisip of Basilan and Pioneer Epoxy joining 10 PBA clubs. Blackwater will be represented by Phenom while Alaska has begged off as team governor Dicky Bachmann heads the PBA 3x3 committee. The joining fee for each “external” team is P2 million. The Philippine 3x3 team of Terrafirma’s Joshua Munzon, Meralco’s Alvin Pasaol and San Miguel’s Mo Tautuaa and C. J. Perez is scheduled to start training at the Calamba bubble next week for the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Graz, Austria, on May 26-30. Marcial said their teams approved the training and SBP will contact the players on their availability. Whom the 3x3 team will spar with in Calamba is still to be determined.

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