MANILA – The Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) will work with the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) for athletes vying for spots in next year’s Tokyo Olympics to resume their training.

This after the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) approved on Friday the resumption of practices for professional basketball and football clubs.

“We plan to meet with POC and CDM (chef de mission) Nonong Araneta to discuss the resumption of training (of) the national team, especially the Olympic hopefuls,” PSC officer in charge Mon Fernandez said in a statement.

While the return to practice of Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), Chooks-To-Go Pilipinas 3×3, and the Philippines Football League (PFL) teams was mainly highlighted in IATF Resolution 51, the joint administrative order (JAO) put up by the PSC, Games and Amusements Board (GAB), and the Department of Health actually goes for all sports.

The JAO lists down “the guidelines on the conduct of health-enhancing physical activities and sports during the Covid-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) pandemic.”

Notable athletes still looking to make the Olympic cut include Rio Olympics silver medalist Hidilyn Diaz of weightlifting, Pauline Lopez of taekwondo, Margielyn Didal of skateboarding, and the Gilas Pilipinas Men in the inaugural 3×3 basketball event.

In the meantime, Fernandez, a former national athlete in 5×5 basketball, said, “We shall await more information and instructions from the IATF on the joint working group between GAB, DOH, and PSC so we can proceed more efficiently and effectively.”

 ‘A good development’

Meanwhile, GAB chairman Abraham Mitra thanked the IATF for approving the protocols set for the return of professional team practices.

“This is a good development for the entire professional sports community. Pro sports events have been stalled for four months now and this kind of development is really something to look forward to,” the former Palawan governor said in a separate statement.

The PBA only played one game, the opening game of the 45th season between San Miguel and Magnolia, on March 8.

On the other hand, the start of the PFL season has been postponed numerous times due to Covid-19, although Araneta, also the president of the Philippine Football Federation (PFF), remains keen on pushing through with the season although without the Copa Paulino Alcantara.

The PFL season will be special because the champion will earn a seat in the AFC Champions League (AFCCL) group stages next year.  The runner-up will enter the AFCCL qualifiers.

In an interview with the Philippine News Agency (PNA) on Wednesday night, Mitra initially bared that five people, four players, and a trainer will be allowed to train for a certain period inside a practice facility in provinces under general community quarantine (GCQ) like Metro Manila and Cavite.

The practice sessions will become more lenient to allow up to 10 people at a time once Metro Manila and Cavite join Laguna as provinces under the modified GCQ.

However, the PFF revealed in another statement that the IATF allowed them to let 10 people take part in a certain practice period.

“We thank both IATF and GAB, headed by Chairman Abraham Mitra, for their approval in ensuring that professional sports may push through despite the ongoing pandemic,” Araneta said. “The next step now is to ensure the health and safety of the players, as we prepare for the eventual start of training of PFL teams.”

“With the IATF’s approval, PFL teams can now proceed to train so that players’ match fitness is achieved and injury is prevented during the eventual resumption of PFL,” PFF secretary-general Ed Gastanes added.

Mitra said one group of athletes and trainers will be allotted one hour to do their drills, and after 30 minutes of sanitizing the practice area, the next group can practice as well. (PNA)

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