Gilas pool to begin training for 2021 FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers in Calamba bubble

The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) announced on Friday its 16-man pool for the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers.

Ateneo Blue Eagles center Angelo Kouame headlines the pool, along with his former teammates Isaac Go, Matt and Mike Nieto, and current Ateneo cagers Dwight Ramos, Will Navarro, and Dave Ildefonso. Also included are Cebuano hotshot Rey Suerte, center Justine Baltazar, former UP Maroon Jaydee Tungcab, San Beda's Calvin Oftana and Kenmark Cariño. Rounding out the list are Allyn Bulanadi, Kobe Paras, Juan, and Javi Gomez de Liaño.

In a statement, the SBP said it got the approval for the Gilas pool to train for the competition in a bubble-like campus in Calamba.

"The SBP is happy to announce that we have received the go-ahead from Chief Implementer of the National Action Plan Against COVID-19 Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr. and the Deputy Chief Implementer Undersecretary Vince Dizon to start training for our Gilas Pilipinas Men's Team in preparation for the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers, which will happen from November 26 to 30 in Manama, Bahrain. The SBP already had a plan in place to form a team for the November window weeks ago but we had to make sure we did everything by the book because of the current situation," said SBP President Al Panlilio.

"SBP Chairman Emeritus Manny V. Pangilinan, being part of the FIBA's Central Board, has been adamant about our participation as FIBA restarts the Asia Cup Qualifiers to further strengthen our partnership with them and show that we're completely behind them in this endeavor. MVP's guidance has been pivotal throughout this process and we're happy to finally get the green light."

Last October 19, the SBP wrote a letter to the National Task Force Against COVID-19 (NTF), on behalf of the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), to ask for guidance about holding "bubble" training and competing in Bahrain. The NTF advised against our team's participation as the Department of Foreign Affairs did not allow Filipinos to travel to Bahrain.

SBP wrote a letter again last November 9 requesting for reconsideration, citing the very strict safety and medical protocols in place for the event including testing before departure for and upon arrival in Bahrain.

"After careful deliberation and taking into consideration the safety and health protocols of both countries involved, as well as the lifting by the Department of Foreign Affairs of the travel ban to Bahrain, we are pleased to inform you that the NTF has reconsidered its earlier position and hereby allows the participation of the SBP to the Qualifiers for the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup," the letter stated. "The NTF likewise allows the SBP to conduct basketball practice at Inspire, Calamba, Laguna under a 'bubble' arrangement."

"Our partnership with the PBA allowed us to have five players in Isaac Go, Matt Nieto, Mike Nieto, Allyn Bulanadi, and Rey Suerte as full-time members of our Gilas Pilipinas Men's Team and we already sent invitations to a select group of players to join our training, which will also have a bubble setup," explained Panlilio. "We're thankful for the continued guidance from the NTF and IATF and we will closely work with them to ensure that our team's preparation and departure from the Philippines will be safe."