By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter

APART from restarting their currently suspended season, the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) view the league’s targeted restart next month as opening up possibilities both for local sports and the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Shut since March when the pandemic started to make its presence felt in the country, the PBA is looking to resume its season on Oct. 9 in a “bubble” setting at Clark City in Angeles, Pampanga.

Under the bubble setup, which is similar to that employed in the National Basketball Association, players, coaches, and staff of the teams and the league will be holed up in one location for the duration of the tournament and will be shuttled to and from the hotel and the playing venue.

Games will be played at the Angeles University Foundation while the teams will be staying in the nearby Quest Hotel.

The league is just awaiting approval to proceed from the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID).

For PBA Chairman Ricky Vargas, the league’s restart is about time and said that provided they do what is needed it could bode well on various fronts.

“This is the sport that most of us love, that the whole country loves. And bringing it back on air is a win not only from an entertainment value, but also from a mental health or from an economic (standpoint),” Mr. Vargas was quoted as saying by the official PBA website.

“If our bubble is successful, it will [help] open up the economy and it will become a more engaged environment especially in sports,” he added.

Since hitting the country, the coronavirus pandemic has put the local sporting scene largely at a standstill, with the end still to be determined.

Events have been postponed, or worse, cancelled, and training of athletes is still largely prohibited.

The pandemic, meanwhile, is expected to shrink the Philippine economy by 7.3% in 2020, according to the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

In its latest update to the Asian Development Outlook 2020 released last week, the ADB slashed its 2020 gross domestic product (GDP) forecast for the Philippines to -7.3%, much worse than the -3.8% forecast in June and the 2% projection in April.

The government, however, is hoping to get the economy back on its feet as the year ends by, among other things, allowing more industries to further open up and conduct business.

Mr. Vargas assured that the league is doing everything it can to have its return a success, taking cue from the models available in various leagues, particularly abroad, as well as making sure that their plans are aligned with government regulations and protocols to guard against the spread of the coronavirus.

“There are a lot of models that we can work with, and if we follow those models, I foresee that sports would be back,” the PBA official, who represents the TNT KaTropa, said.

Once the PBA returns, it will be a compressed tournament, lasting only two months and will feature two games daily. And the league expects to crown a champion by the second week of December.

Tournament format will see a single round-robin elimination, with the top eight teams advancing to the next round. The top four seeds will have a twice-to-beat advantage in the quarterfinals. The semifinals will be a best-of-five affair, and the finals best-of-seven.