The February window of the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers will no longer be held in Clark, Pampanga, in light of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic- related travel ban, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) announced in a press release on Tuesday.
In a statement, SBP president Al Panlilio said: “The SBP wanted nothing else than to be one with the international basketball community as it attempts to bounce back in 2021 after taking a huge hit during the pandemic. Our commitment to FIBA has never wavered, as evidenced by our participation in the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers in Manama, Bahrain, even amidst the difficult circumstances.”
“The SBP offered to welcome not just Group A where we belong, but Group C as well because we were confident we’d be able to host a safe environment where world-class basketball players can showcase their skill without having to worry about anything else. We’ve exerted a lot of effort into our hosting of the upcoming FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers, and this is why it is with great sadness that we announce it is no longer going to happen,” added Panlilio.
“We’ve constantly communicated with our partners from the National Task Force Against COVID-19, and they have informed us that there would be no exemptions from the current travel restrictions announced by the Department of Foreign Affairs,” the SBP president further explained.
“We are working with FIBA to look for possible solutions to this situation,” closed Panlilio. “We look forward to the day that the SBP welcomes FIBA basketball to our shores again.”
Meanwhile, SBP Special Assistant to the President Ryan Gregorio clarified that the third window would push through in another country, but the timetable is not yet clear.
In connection with the threat of a new coronavirus variant initially found in the United Kingdom (UK), the so-called UK variant, which is a more potent strain of COVID-19, the Philippines was prompted to impose a travel ban on several countries, including three that are in either Group A (Korea) or Group B (Australia and Hong Kong) of the qualifiers.
The country’s hosting of the third window of the FIBA Asia qualifiers was supposed to be held in Clark from February 18 to 22.
The Philippines was supposed to host games for Groups A and C of the FIBA qualifiers in a bubble setup. Meanwhile, the games for Group B were supposed to be held in Tokyo, but as per the SBP, Japan also begged off hosting due to the virus. Qatar is offering to do it instead.