By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter

FEELING the impact of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in more ways than one, the fledgling Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League moved on Monday to postpone its 2020–2021 season.

In a memorandum sent to the 31 member teams, MPBL Commissioner Kenneth Duremdes said the league had decided to postpone the next MPBL season to next year as the situation with COVID-19 remains to be a going concern.

The memo also cited as reasons for the postponement the status of currently shut ABS-CBN S+A, which broadcasts MPBL matches, as well as contact sports not being allowed still despite the country’s transition to general community quarantine.

Mr. Duremdes said the decision to postpone was sad and tough to make, and something they carefully thought about with stakeholders, including team owners and MPBL founder and owner Manny Pacquiao.

“It really saddens us to make this decision. We all know how basketball is popular here, how Filipinos are passionate about it. But there are bigger priorities at the moment. With COVID-19 health is our concern,” said Mr. Duremdes in an interview with BusinessWorld.

“The league is just following the protocols in place and the developments in the fight against COVID-19, and after discussions with the team owners over Viber the consensus was to postpone until there is a vaccine for COVID-19, which hopefully happens by the end of the year,” he added.

The MPBL memo also says that the currently halted Chooks-to-Go MPBL Lakan Cup playoffs would resume once conditions permit it to do so.

Games involved are those between defending champions San Juan Go-For-Gold and Makati Super Crunch in the North Division Finals and Davao Occidental Tigers and Basilan Steel in the South Division Finals. Both best-of-three series are split with one game apiece.

The league, as per the memo, is also open to holding a protracted preseason tournament in preparation for the 2021–2022 season as soon as the government allows contact sports to be played.

The MPBL also said that no teams will be allowed to take a leave of absence during the 2021–2022 season just as it advised them to give 20% of the players’ salary during the course of the cancelled season.

“It’s really heavy to the heart but hopefully the teams and players would use the postponement as an opportunity to get better and prepare themselves for the next year,” said Mr. Duremdes.

The MPBL commissioner went on to say that they are confident that when next season comes they would be ready to roll again and their supporters back to support the league.

“Next year will be challenging but we are confident of coming back stronger. We will continue to improve as a group and we believe that fans will continue to support us once we resume, especially after not having such form of entertainment for a long time,” Mr. Duremdes said.

The 2020–2021 season of the MPBL was supposed to start on June 12 but was initially moved to a later date in a memorandum released in April until it was postponed altogether.