The FIBA Asia Cup qualifying matches scheduled to begin next week in Doha, Qatar, are not pushing through after world basketball governing body FIBA was forced to cancel the proceedings because of rising cases of the coronavirus there.

The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) confirmed on Friday early reports in the day that FIBA assessed the situation and deemed it fit to postpone the third window of the qualifiers as cases of the coronavirus in Doha were on the rise and that Qatar has raised restrictions on those coming into the country.

Gilas Pilipinas was set to compete in the window in Group A and to play three matches – two against Korea and one versus Indonesia – from Feb. 18 to 22. Also part of the group is Thailand.

Also affected were scheduled matches in Group B, which features China, Japan, Chinese Taipei, and Malaysia; and Group E, which has Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and host Qatar. 

“The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas regrets to inform everyone that the final window of the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers, as scheduled to start on February 17 in Doha, Qatar, will not be pushing through. The SBP received a letter from FIBA Executive Director-Asia Hagop Khajirian informing all teams from Groups A, B, and E that the Ministry of Public Health in Qatar has ordered to cancel all events hosted there due to the increasing rates of COVID-19 in the country,” read the statement of SBP President Al Panlilio on the cancellation of the window.

“The SBP is saddened by the development especially because we know the kind of work that our Gilas Pilipinas Men’s pool has done in Calamba,” it added, referring to the pool of cadet and Philippine Basketball Association players training in a “bubble” setup at the INSPIRE Sports Academy in Laguna in preparation for the competition in Doha.

The team was supposed to leave for Doha this weekend.

The cancellation marked the second time that Group A matches in the third window of the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers had been shelved. 

The Philippines was supposed to host the teams in the group and those in Group C (New Zealand, Australia, Guam and Hong Kong) at Clark City in Pampanga this month until SBP was forced to cancel it because of the new strains of the coronavirus and the heightened restrictions that the government put up because of them.

Group A matches were relocated to Doha after.

While saddened by the news, the SBP fully understands the situation. 

“Although we are saddened by the situation, we also understand the predicament faced by the Qatar Basketball Federation as they had no choice but to follow the mandate of their government,” said Mr. Panlilio. 

Adding, “These are extraordinary times and we can only do our best given the hand we are dealt. We thank our Qatari friends for their willingness to host our group given the short notice and we are hoping that the rise of COVID-19 cases in their country ceases soon.” 

FIBA is currently studying all the available alternatives for having the games in the near future.