By Rey C. Lachica
Even without TV coverage or its matches played behind closed doors the rest of the way, the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League is determined to finish its 2019-2020 season.
With the government about to downgrade COVID-19 restrictions to General Community Quarantine, MPBL Commissioner Kenneth Duremdes is hoping they will be allowed to resume their divisional championships in the Chooks-to-Go-MPBL Lakan Cup soon.
“Now we can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” said Duremdes in a phone conversation Wednesday. “We really have to finish this season no matter what because we started it with a bang.”
The league’s playoff series in both the North and South were canceled last March due to the coronavirus outbreak that also affected the world’s premier sporting events like the NBA, England’s Premier League, Italy’s Serie A and Spanish League.
While saddened by the shutdown of the league’s TV carrier – broadcast giant ABS-CBN – Duremdes said they have no choice but to use other platforms like Facebook to resume their games for the sake of sports-starved Filipinos.
“If walang TV coverage from ABS, then we can do live FB,” said the former PBA MVP. “We have to do it for the sake of our fans and basketball in the country.”
ABS-CBN went off the air on free TV and radio upon the order of the National Telecommunications Commission after its license to operate expired last May 5.
Besides, the league contract with ABS CBN’s S & A had expired last March.
As the network’s fate now hinges on Congress, what matters to Duremdes now is to secure clearance from concerned LGUs.
“The most important thing for us is to have an LGU (local government unit) willing to give us permit to hold our games. We know their concerns but we are willing to adhere to whatever their health and safety protocols are,” said Duremdes.
Since the league is using the home-and-away format, Duremdes said travel arrangement is another obstacle they have to hurdle, not to mention booking for hotels and restaurants.
Defending champion San Juan City and Makati are tied in a best-of-three series at 1-1 and so are Basilan and Davao Occidental in the South. The National Finals will be a best-of-five affair.
With the latest development in the country’s fight to flatten the COVID-19 curve, Duremdes is looking forward to meeting the league’s founder Sen. Manny Pacquiao, team owners and other league officials in order to strategize their return to people’s consciousness.