TOURNAMENTS featuring foreign reinforcements in the Philippine Basketball Association may be sidelined for a while as the league finds its way back from the effects of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

The league, however, reiterated it is not so much because it is not open to it but more of prevailing conditions may prevent imports from playing in Asia’s first play-for-pay league in the immediate future.

In the online Philippine Sportswriters Association forum early this week, PBA Commissioner Willie Marcial said it is highly likely that when the PBA gets back into action later this year, or in 2021, it would feature import-less tournaments first.

“It’s possible that we would not have imports. The thing is, will there be any import willing to come here and play at the moment? And, of course, we are concerned over them playing here with our local players,” said the PBA chief in the vernacular, spotlighting the difficulty of having COVID-19 a going concern sans a vaccine for it.

“And if ever they (imports) could come, they have to go into quarantine for 14 days. And if a team needs to replace an import it would be another 14-day quarantine period. It would take a lot of time. So most probably when we return it would be all-Filipino,” he added.

The import situation is one of the concerns the league has found itself having to deal with and adjust to amid COVID-19, along with the inaugural 3×3 tournament and the PBA D-League.

Prior to the pandemic, the PBA was holding three conferences, one featuring an all-Filipino tournament (Philippine Cup) and two import-laden conferences with varying height limits for reinforcements (Commissioner’s Cup and Governors’ Cup)

Last season, the San Miguel Beermen and Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings topped the Commissioner’s Cup and Governors’ Cup with Chris McCullough and Justin Brownlee as imports, respectively.

The PBA suspended its season on March 11 as COVID-19 started to take further root in the country and the government came out with mitigating measures to help stop the spread of the highly contagious virus, including prohibiting mass gatherings like sporting events.

It is holding off making a final decision on the fate of the ongoing season in August but it has reached out to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), the lead agency tasked to handle measures against COVID-19 and its effects, for it to be allowed to return to doing some activities.

As of this writing, the league is still awaiting response from the IATF to its request.

In the Philippines, there are now 23,732 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 4,895 recovering and 1,027 perishing. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo