WHILE the return to action of the Philippine Basketball Association this season remains to be seen amid concerns over the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, teams under the umbrella of San Miguel Corp. have begun moves for their possible return to the floor by having their players tested for the highly contagious respiratory disease.

Recently, players of the San Miguel Beermen, Magnolia Hotshots Pambansang Manok and Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings underwent COVID-19 testing, bearing favorable results as all of them tested negative.

“We are happy to report that all of our basketball players tested negative from the virus,” said SMC president and chief operating officer Ramon S. Ang, who decided to put up a real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (rRT-PCR) testing facility and laboratory right at the company’s premises to reduce the strain on government health facilities that are currently conducting and processing COVID-19 tests.

Mr. Ang and his group expressed hope that with the tests of their players, the conversation for the possible return of sports like basketball, and leagues like the PBA, under the “new normal” would be sustained and considered.

“We defer to the government’s wisdom and decision on when team-based leagues like the PBA will return especially if people’s lives are at stake. While we all miss the PBA, we need to first create a safe environment to limit the spread of the virus,” the SMC chief said.

Mr. Ang went on to urge the PBA family to be part of the movement for recovery efforts by consistently testing everyone involved in the league, among other things, to serve as an example.

He added that the company will continuously monitor the health of its players and the rest of its employees and assured that existing health packages are more than sufficient to cover them and their families while assuring as well that when players are allowed to go back to work the company will observe proper health and safety protocols.

The testing of its players is one of the initiatives SMC has been doing in the fight against COVID-19, which, as of this writing, has 18,997 confirmed cases in the country.

Among its recent efforts was its donation of three sets of rRT-PCR testing machines and RNA machines to key government hospitals on top of the five sets of the same machines and testing kits equivalent to 20,000 tests that were given to the Department of Health.

It also donated testing booths to 17 Metro Manila local government units to help expand COVID-19 testing in their respective areas and make it available at little or no cost to poor communities.

The PBA shut down its current season on March 11 as COVID-19 started taking further root in the country, and the government came out with mitigating measures against the disease, including prohibiting mass gatherings like sporting events.

The league is still hopeful of resuming the season but leaving making a final decision till August, believing there would be a better picture of the COVID-19 situation by that time. — Michael Angelo S. Murillo