After nearly two years of online training due to the COVID-19 pandemic, universities and colleges affiliated with the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) may now resume in-person training following the signing of a memorandum last Dec. 13 by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the Department of Health (DOH) outlining the guidelines for collegiate athletic training.
According to the guidelines, teams must conduct training sessions in a bubble environment restricted to fully vaccinated players, coaches, and staff members. Additionally, stringent adherence to minimal health standards will be maintained, including frequent COVID-19 testing.
"Generally, the protocols for the sports training [are] the same protocols that we have for the limited face-to-face classes. Observance of minimum health protocols, the retrofitting of facilities, vaccinated students and faculty," CHED chairman Popoy De Vera told ABS-CBN News in an interview.
NCAA and UAAP schools can immediately resume their in-person training in accordance with CHED and DOH requirements because they have previously received certificates proving their compliance with the guidelines.
With the resumption of collegiate athletic training, UAAP and NCAA aim to return to action by March 2022, starting with 5-on-5 basketball competitions and as schools continue to undertake in-person courses and training, DOH Secretary Francisco Duque noted that health officials and experts are closely monitoring the Omicron variant's threat.
"Of course, people are going to say ang tagal. Patience was also tested with this being a sports event, but people tend to forget that the UAAP, NCAA, and intercollegiate leagues, aside from being a sports activity, [is] also a school activity," said UAAP executive director Rebo Saguisag in an interview with CNN.
League officials think if the situation over COVID-19 improves in the first quarter of next year, they will be able to invite audiences to the facility.
Meanwhile, according to officials, the UAAP's current strategy is to stage a bubble-style competition.