By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter
THE Philippines’ hosting of the third and final window of the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Asia Cup Qualifiers (ACQ) next month is not pushing through because of the ongoing travel ban on incoming foreigners from countries with known cases of the new variants of the coronavirus.
In an announcement released on Tuesday, Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) President Al Panlilio said they regret to inform of the cancellation of the tournament window, which was supposed to take place from Feb. 18 to 22 at Clark City in Angeles City, Pampanga, as current government protocols for the coronavirus pandemic made it impossible to stage.
“We’ve exerted a lot of effort into our hosting of the upcoming FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers and this is why it is with great sadness that we announce it is no longer going to happen,” Mr. Panlilio said in a release.
“We’ve constantly communicated with our partners from the National Task Force Against COVID-19 and they have informed us that there would be no exemptions from the current travel restrictions announced by the Department of Foreign Affairs,” he added.
The SBP offered the country as host of the final window of the FIBA ACQ late last year to do its share in further pushing for the return of international basketball amid the pandemic.
FIBA accepted the offer with Clark City serving as host not only for games in Group A, where the Philippines plays along with Korea, Indonesia and Thailand, but also those for Group C, which has New Zealand, Australia, Guam, and Hong Kong.
But the still-ongoing concern over the pandemic, made worse by the discovery of new strains of the coronavirus, rendered it impossible for them to push through, Mr. Panlilio said.
The SBP is currently coordinating with FIBA on the next action to take following the Clark cancellation just as it expressed its willingness to step up to the plate to host events when conditions allow it.
“We are working with FIBA to look for possible solutions to this situation. We look forward to the day that the SBP welcomes FIBA basketball to our shores again,” said Mr. Panlilio.
Apart from the Philippines, also begging off from hosting the qualifier window next month because of coronavirus concerns was Japan.
Tokyo was to host Group B matches. Qatar has since offered to host games in the grouping in Doha.
The Philippines was supposed to play three games in the third window of the FIBA ACQ in Clark — two against Korea (Feb. 18 and 22) and one versus Indonesia (Feb. 20).
Gilas Pilipinas is currently in a training “bubble” at the INSPIRE Sports Academy in Laguna in preparation for the window.