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Subic Freeport to host first ‘bubble’ volleyball playoffs

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SUBIC BAY FREEPORT — The country’s first-ever volleyball tournament to be held under the COVID-19 pandemic will happen right here at the sand courts of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) on Feb. 26-28.

SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma said the 2021 Gatorade-PSL Beach Volleyball Challenge Cup organized by Philippine Super Liga (PSL) will be held under a “sports bubble” concept approved under strict guidelines by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF).

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The IATF through Resolution No. 79 issued on Oct. 15, 2020 allowed the PSL volleyball tourney subject to strict observance of, among others, health and safety protocols finalized with the SBMA, the local Regional Task Force COVID-19, and the local Department of Health Center for Health Development.

“Because of this, there will be no spectators to be allowed at the tournament area, and only players and organizers and technical crew will be out there. But the games will be livestreamed on television and online channels,” Eisma said.

“It’s the second-best thing next to a playoff with live audience, and I believe the excitement and intensity of the games won’t be diminished a bit by the restriction,” she added.

Eisma added that under the sports bubble concept, all participants in the tournament, as well as the organizers and technical crew, will be housed in dedicated accommodation facilities and monitored by health and safety personnel. They will have no interaction with the public, she added.

The PSL said a total of eight teams will see action this season at the SBMA sand courts, which served as venue for an exciting beach volleyball meet during the 30th Southeast Asian Games in December 2019.

These are Sta. Lucia, which is billed as the team to beat with veteran beach volley campaigners Bang Pineda and Jonah Sabete, as well as DM Demontano and Jackie Estoquia; guest team Kennedy Solar Energy-PetroGazz, with the tandem of Ariane Luna Alarcon and Christina Canares; and F2 Logistics, with Jenny Mar Senares, Kyla Angela Gallego.

Meanwhile, Chery Tiggo, which will don the colors of United Auctioneers Inc., will join the fray with Ella Viray and Theresa Ramas; Abanse Negrense 1 with Alexa Polidario and Erjan Magdato; Abanse Negrense 2 with Jennifer Cosas and Gelimae Villanueva; and Toby’s Sports with Jonah San Pedro and Javen Sabas.

The tourney sponsored by Cherrylume, Ube Express and Subic Bay Peninsular Hotel, also has Cocolife, UCPB Gen, Data Project and Genius Sports as technical partners.

PSL chairman Philip Ella Juico said this historic tourney will not be possible without the support of the participating teams, as well as IATF, which approved the bubble setup in Subic.

“By becoming the first volleyball league to restart its season in the coronavirus era, we have a very big responsibility to our players, coaches, team owners, the media, and other stakeholders. But rest assured that we will do everything to observe all the necessary health and safety protocols in accordance with the policies of the IATF, the SBMA, and the Department of Health,” Juico added.

Eisma said the PSL volleyball tournament will just be the first in a series of tourism-related events being prepared for implementation in Subic under the bubble setup.

“We are also eyeing basketball events, beauty pageants, and conferences, which would be possible here because of facilities that allow social distancing, the availability of quarantine hotels where event participants can be housed in isolation, and strict adherence by stakeholders to health and safety protocols,” she added.

The Subic Bay Freeport also serves as a crew change hub for international commercial vessels and hosts a corporate jet maintenance bubble at the Subic Bay International Airport.

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