PH offers to host Asia Cup qualifiers in February 2021

MANILA, Philippines, November 22 ------ Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) has offered to host the February 2021 window of the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 qualifiers, with Clark, Pampanga as a potential venue for the "bubble." SBP president Al Panlilio confirmed Thursday that they have made an offer to FIBA, and the world governing body of basketball "welcomed" their bid.

FIBA had previously announced that the November 2020 and February 2021 windows of its continental competitions -- including the Asia Cup qualifiers -- will be held in bubbles, instead of the usual home-and-away format. Gilas Pilipinas, for instance, will compete in Manama, Bahrain together with other teams in Group A. "We've actually offered FIBA to host the next window in February and to host some games also here, similar to what PBA and Comm Willie (Marcial) has done in Clark," Panlilio revealed. "We're already starting our talks with Sec. Vince Dizon in making that happen."

Dizon is the president of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) as well as deputy chief implementer of the National Action Plan against COVID-19. He played a big role in bringing the PBA to Clark, together with Noel Manankil of the Clark Development Corporation. Panlilio believes that the PBA bubble in Clark "is a model that we can now really offer to the FIBA." A FIBA bubble will be less complicated than that of the PBA's, because the Philippines will host at most six to eight teams compared to 12 teams in the professional league. According to Panlilio, they are willing to host two groups as some teams have yet to find a country that can serve as a venue for their own bubble. "We can handle that," said SBP chairman Emeritus Manny V. Pangilinan.

FIBA will have its own strict health protocols, but Panlilio does not foresee any issue when it comes to aligning their guidelines and regulations with those of the Philippine government. The SBP leadership further believes that they can follow the best practices done by the PBA, which is still holding its bubble in Clark. "I think FIBA has welcomed that offer. We would just have to start discussions with them on what are the nitty gritty agreements and arrangements that need to happen," said Panlilio. "But I'm sure we'd be able to arrive at something that will be not only good for us but also good for the FIBA."

The PBA salvaged its 45th season by holding the All-Filipino Conference in Clark, Pampanga in cooperation with the BCDA and the CDC. The entire delegation -- which includes all 12 teams, league officials, and media -- were billeted at the Quest Hotel, while games are played at the Angeles University Foundation Gym, a venue 30 minutes away from the hotel. There have been some hiccups, with a referee and a player being tagged as suspected positive cases. They both subsequently returned negative results, and the conference has progressed after stricter protocols were implemented by the Department of Health and the Inter-Agency Task Force.