FIVE months since the deadly coronavirus outbreak forced its lockdown, Philippine sports is slowly but surely getting back on the road to recovery.
Major professional sports, such as the PBA and the Philippine Football Federation, are already taking nervous but well-planned steps in preparation for their long-awaited return.
Nobody can say, however, when will be the exact dates of their restarts, especially now that the country is experiencing a resurgence of the coronavirus.
The Inter-Agency Task Force of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), the agency tasked by President Duterte to lead the fight against the pandemic, is very careful in keeping a balance between the safety and livelihood of the people.
In sports, the man in the middle is clearly Games and Amusements Board (GAB) Chairman Abraham "Baham' Mitra.
A three-time lawmaker and public servant from Palawan, Mitra is now taking up the cudgels for professional athletes who are greatly affected by the pandemic since March.
Mitra, who was appointed by President Duterte as GAB chairman in 2016, now represents several professional leagues in discusssions with the IATF-EID, Department of Health and Department of Labor and Employment and other concerned government agencies to ensure the safety and welfare of the professional athletes.
In last Thursday's “Usapang Sports on Air” by the Tabloids Organization in Philippine Sports (TOPS), Mitra talked everything about sports during the pandemic.
Let’s listen to him:
On the approval given by the IATF to the PBA and PFF to return:
“The safety protocols of PBA and PFF have already been approved by the IATF. We're very happy na pinayagan na mag practice, pero wala pang scrimmage. Wala pang tournament pero pinayagan na so they (players) can stay fit. Pinayagan sila dahi yun ang hanap-buhay nila. Paano ka maging healthy kung walang hanapbuhay. Yun mga amateur players, may allowances naman from the PSC (Philippine Sports Commission).
On the IATF’s decision to grant approval only to the PBA and PFF:
“Sa PBA, grabe. Very strict yung ginawa nilang safety protocols. Grabe ka-ganda. Pati sa PFF. Ginagaya na nga ng ibang bansa, like Malaysia. Humihingi sila ng kopya para magaya nila at mai-present sa lugar nila. Very scientific yun ginawa nilang protocols. I think talagang mga doctors, nurses and medical experts yun nag-prepare.”
On the limitations of the IATF approval and the exclusion on semi-pro sports and other recreational activities:
“Malacañang has already issued a clarification na only professional sports. Yun pro sports, medyo madaling bantayan at talagang nag-iingat dahil yun nga ang trabaho nila. Mahalaga din na may government body na mag-regulate para matiyak na ayos ang lahat, In the case of pro sports, it is the GAB. We really have to make it clear na hindi lahat pinapayagan. Yun mga bata, lalo na mga seniors citizens, hindi pa din pwedeng maglaro ng basketball sa mga park. Very careful dya n ang IATF."
On the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League, Philippine Super Liga and Philippine Volleyball League:
"Akala nila kasama lahat, pero only the PBA and PFF. Kasama nila ang GAB na lumapit sa IATF. Yun iba hindi naman under the supervision ng GAB. Matagal na kami lumapit sa kanila, pero sabi nila hindi sila professional. It's very hard to open the door kung hindi naman kumakatok. Sabi nga, kumatok ka muna bago ka pagbuksan ng pinto. You cannot assume that you will be allowed to resume right away dahil yun PBA, pinayagan na.”
On boxing and the plight of Filipino boxers:
“Boxing was approved, hindi lang naisama sa naunang announcement ni Sec.(Harry) Roque. Initially, na-deny sa TWG. Pagdating sa IATF, DILG Sec.Eduardo Año approved it and DOLE Sec. Silvestre Bello seconded. Sa boxing, 10 tao lang muna at may testing. You cannot be coming from Manila to participate in a boxing match in Laguna where it is MGCQ. Wordwide, ganyan na din. Sila-sila,din muna ang naglalaban-laban. Pag sa Thailand, Thai vs Thai muna. Sa Japan, ganun din. Yun pag-biyahe ng mga boxers, sa abroad, pinayagan na din ng IATF. Pero bago umalis, may lecture muna from GAB medical experts para sa kanilang proteksyon. Parang OFWs din kasi sila (boxers).”
On cockfighting and its P50-billion industry:
“Last June 10 , we presented basketball, boxing, football and cockfighting. Mahirap sa sabong dahil mataas yun risk ng transmission ng disease May sumisigaw, may batuhan ng pera. Hindi pa pinapayagan ng IATF pero may mga hakbang namang ginagawa. Medyo mabagal pero gumagalaw naman Yun Association of Cockfighting Pit Owners and Operators, led by Eric de la Rosa, already came froward and suggested safety protocals Nag-aaya nga sila para bisitahin yun mga sabungan para ipakita nila yun mga safety protocols. GAB will also talk to NEDA to validate the industry figures that we presented. Malaki talagang industriya ang cockfighting at madami talagang na-apektuhan mula mga breeders hanggang mga big businesses.
* * *
July 13, in case you didn't know it yet, was a red-letter day for me.
I turned 56 on this rainy Monday. It was not all that bad.
At 20, I wanted to know who I would become.
At 40, I've become.
And by now, I am what I am. I am proud of the life I made with my family and friends around me. I’ve survived some things, hardened to some and opened up to others.
God willing, I will be 60 in four years’ time. I can’t wait for the new challenges.
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