The PBA will impose a 20 percent salary cut on all teams while the league awaits the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines as it began planning for the 46th season following internal meetings on Monday and Tuesday. The cut covers all players, coaches, and PBA employees.
In a press conference Tuesday, commissioner Willie Marcial and vice chairman Bobby Rosales said vaccination is the league's "first order of the day" before it decides a final timeline and location for the delayed 2021 season.
In the meantime, all players, members of the coaching staff, team managers and other personnel will have to deal with pay cuts -- something that the league's teams did not impose during the forced suspension last year. Only utility workers are not included, according to Marcial, and salaries will only normalize once scrimmages begin.
"It's about time that we give our own contribution to team owners, to teams who have supported us for 16 months," he said. "Other companies laid off workers, but the PBA didn't do that last year. We paid everyone even though there were no games. We're showing the team governors and team owners that we can help a little."
Rosales added: "I think the commissioner is just exercising prudence because of the certainty of when we can possibly open the season."
So far, everything is still on the table for the league's Board of Governors -- including a bubble, with Ilocos Norte emerging as a possible location along with Antipolo, Rizal since Clark, Pampanga will be utilized for the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers this June.
"(Ilocos Norte) governor Matthew Manotoc offered to host the bubble. I'm thankful, and I told him about our conditions," said Marcial. "I'm also in conversations with (ex-Antipolo mayor and ex-Rizal governor) Jun Ynares and said they're open to hosting the PBA in a bubble or in a semi-circuit setup as long as it's approved by the IATF."
But planning for the logistics of the season opening will completely depend on when the vaccines arrive, with Marcial saying he's hoping the vaccines arrive sometime around May or June.
If vaccines don't come by June, Marcial admitted that a two-conference staging for 2021 will not be a likely possibility anymore.
"The 2021 season might extend until March or April 2022 if we try to hold two conferences when we start past June," he explained. "If we start in May or June, we can hold the season until February. That will be fine."
Marcial had previously said that the PBA has already ordered 2,000 to 3,000 doses of the Moderna jab from Red Cross, while another 1,500 will come from sports patron Manny V. Pangilinan. The San Miguel Corporation, according to Rosales, has also committed a certain amount to the PBA.
"The question really is when can we have the PBA family vaccinated? That is the big question mark," said Rosales. "If we want to open soon, then we will have to start vaccination. If everybody is vaccinated, then it will be easier for the government, the IATF to allow the season to open."
A scheduled meeting between Marcial and the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) will take place next week as the PBA seeks to expedite the arrival of the jabs.
Rosales, however, said the PBA has "no intention of jumping the line" ahead of other priority groups for vaccination. So far, the Philippine government is inoculating groups A1 to A3, or the health workers, senior citizens and persons with comorbidities.
"We know the priorities are established by the government. But what we are trying to ask the government is how we can expedite the vaccination of the whole PBA family. Now if the IATF or the government can give a suggestion, then we'll be more than happy to follow that. Or if they can assist to bring in the arrival of the vaccines committed to the PBA, then that will be a big help," he said.
In a schedule provided earlier this year by vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr., 194,000 doses of Moderna are set to arrive next month. More doses are coming by June, according to business tycoon Enrique Razon Jr, by way of a tripartite agreement signed by the private sector, the Philippine government and Moderna to secure 20 million doses for the country.