SAN Juan and Davao Occidental, national champions of the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL), will lead the participants in the inaugural tournament of the FilBasket League to be held under a bubble setup starting September 18 at Splendido in Laurel, Batangas.

The Knights, champions of the 2019 season, and the Tigers, the 2020 champs, will lead 10 other squads in this newly-formed amateur league which will be headed by commissioner Jai Reyes.

"Given there were no games for a long time, my fellow players and coaches, of course, all of us are looking for somewhere to play, so I decided to create FilBasket," Reyes said. "Even if we wanted to play, we have limited opportunities, so I think there's an opportunity there."

Also seeing action in the tournament are MPBL teams Basilan and Pasig-Sta. Lucia Realty of Exequiel Robles and team manager Buddy Encarnado. Also competing are FSD-Makati Army, EOG Sports Burlington, 7A Primus, Clearport International Canada, and the Muntinlupa Defenders.

"It's going to be a full bubble. The safety of everyone is our priority. All the activities are going to happen there," added Reyes. "The hotel is there; the court is there. No need to go outside the premises. We have 12 teams there already. We'll be launching the other teams in our social media pages in the coming days."

"Basketball Never Stops" shall be the motto of FilBasket as the league plays seven days a week for 40 days.

The top four teams at the end of the single round elimination will advance to the semifinal round. The semifinalists will play in a knockout format with no twice-to-beat advantage given to the top two teams.

Reyes, meanwhile, clarified the MPBL teams participating in FilBasket's inaugural tournament are not leaving the league created by Sen. Emmanuel "Manny" Pacquiao.

"Their participation in this new league doesn't mean they're leaving the fastest growing regional amateur basketball league," he said.

The MPBL has been put on hold for more than a year now because of the pandemic and plans of launching the new season has remained uncertain.

"The players are looking for a league to play," added Reyes. "We're not here to compete with the MPBL or any other leagues. One of the thrusts of the league and our core values is we want to be inclusive. It will not only benefit the players. When leagues battle it out, the restrictions are put on the players. I've experienced it first-hand. I think that's something that can be approached by our league and we want to show it on FilBasket. We will be happy and open to our players, playing in as many leagues as they can."

For its inaugural tournament, FilBasket does not require teams to pay a franchise fee.

"Since we're still launching our first tournament, we're not setting a franchise fee yet. We're only setting a tournament fee of P350,000," added Reyes. "We're going to spend it back, to cover the league. Our advocacy really is to restart basketball, bring back the jobs of people working in basketball that were quickly lost during the pandemic and also learn a few things."