MANILA, May 31, 2004
By Abac Cordero  -  Now that the World Pool Championship, which was held in Cardiff, Wales, over the last five years, will be hosted by Taipei in July, one question lies ahead: Can the Philippines be the next host?

If you ask Aristeo "Putch" Puyat, the godfather of Philippine billiards, the answer is yes. In fact, he said the country is very much capable of hosting the prestigious 9-ball tournament won by Efren "Bata" Reyes in 1999.

"Why not?" said Puyat yesterday during a short break in the San Miguel Beer Asian 9-Ball Tourís fifth and final leg at the Robinsonís Galleria.

Puyat, who loves billiards as much as he loves horseracing, said Taipei paid $1 million just to bring the event back to their turf, having hosted it in 1992, 1995 and 1998. The Philippines turned down an offer to host the event two years ago for $600,000.

But is it really worth it?

"What Iím thinking of right now is why go for the World Championship when we can hold our own Philippine Championship here? We can hold it at a much cheaper price with all the great players coming in," said Puyat.

"We can call it our own championship and all the same players will go. The World Pool is considered the most prestigious because it carries the highest prize ($75,000). We can put up that price. Weíve already given away a prize as high as $30,000. So if we only double our prize outlay, then thatís it," he added.

Therefore, Puyat explained, the Philippines can host a tournament as great, as star-studded and as exciting as the World Pool without spending that much.

"We already have the Philippine Open which we held last year. We just have to expand it. We can do that, hopefully this year. Itís only the price money we have to take care of and the players will come even with no guarantees and subsidy," he said.

Puyat also said he has the commitment from ESPN if he pushes through with his plan. The advantage of holding tournaments like these in Asia, he added, is that most of the 9-ball pool watchers are from Asia.

"Nobody is watching it in Europe because they go for snooker and soccer. And if you hold it in Europe, itís shown here live but at 2 a.m. so the viewership suffers. In Asia, thereís just a one-hour time difference so you can air it on all Asian countries live at primetime," he added.

Puyat said heís enjoying a good working relation with ESPN that unlike the first three legs (Singapore, Hong Kong and Vietnam) that were shown on a delayed basis, the Manila leg of this yearís tour is being aired live to at least 23 countries with a viewership of almost half a billion.

"And for being the host country, weíre being featured as a place of interest. Therefore, without ESPN, itís nothing," he said.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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