MANILA, November 19, 2005 
(STAR) By Nelson Beltran and Antonieta Lopez - Nine days before the formal opening of the 23rd Southeast Asian Games in Manila, official SEAG activities in Bacolod start today with thousands of Bacolodnons expected to fill the Panaad Center to welcome athletes and officials participating in the games in the Negros Occidental capital.

Philippine Olympic Committee president Jose "Peping" Cojuangco Jr. is the guest of honor in the ceremonies starting at 5 p.m.

President Arroyo won’t be able to grace the rites since she’s attending the APEC meeting in Busan, Korea, but promised to come in the next few days to watch Filipino athletes in action in Bacolod.

Hostilities in Bacolod get underway tomorrow with Laos and Myanmar playing at 4 p.m. then Vietnam and Singapore squaring off at 6 p.m. in men’s football at the Bacolod City Sports Complex — formerly Paglaum.

The ceremonial kickoff will be among the highlights of today’s rites at the Panaad Center.

With team captains of the competing squads at the background, the POC chief, PSC chairman William "Butch" Ramirez, Negros Occidental Governor Joseph Maranon, Bacolod City Mayor Evelio Leonardia and Bacolod Congressman Monico Puentevella do the honors of kicking the ceremonial ball.

Meanwhile, former RP track star Rogelia Ferrer, silver medalist in the 1958 Asian Games who’s a product of the Negros Occidental High School, will lead the torch run in the grand opening rites.

Former boxing standout Rey Jamili, another Bacolod sporting hero, is tasked to bring in the torch then hand it over to Ferrer who will pass it on to the delegates of 10 other competing nations.

"Rogelia Ferrer is now Mrs. Pell. She’s happy to come all the way from the United States to be part of the SEAG ceremonies," said Puentevella who is chairman of the Bacolod SEA Games Organizing Committee (Basoc).

The opening ceremonies will feature internationally-acclaimed Kabataang Silay Performing Arts and the Kaanyag Dance Company, the Masskara Dancers of Bacolod and the Pasalamat Drum Beaters of La Carlota City.

Puentevella stressed all these activities will push through rain or shine.

"It’s been raining here the last few days but rains won’t stop us from doing all these. Of course, we’ll be happy if we enjoy good weather during the ceremonies," said Puentevella.

Bacolod has attracted a large number of media people assigned to cover football which has always been a top attraction in SEAG.

Weightlifting has also got the attention of the media following medal conquests of the Thai and Indon women lifters in the Athens Olympics.

Twenty-nine gold medals are to be disputed in Bacolod with 14 at stake in boxing, 10 in weightlifting, two each in indoor volley and beach volley and one in football.

Cage dispute gets uglier as Games draws near By Abac Cordero The Philippine Star 11/19/2005

The Philippine Olympic Committee and the Basketball Association of the Philippines yesterday continued to slug it out even as the entire nation braced for its hosting of the 23rd Southeast Asian Games.

With the formal opening of the Games just eight days away, the POC and the BAP remained locked in a ugly dispute regarding the holding of men’s and women’s basketball in the 11-nation event.

The impasse has put the Philippines in a bad light overseas in that sports officials could not put their act together, particularly regarding basketball, the country’s No. 1 sport.

The BAP raised its arms in victory the other day after the Manila Regional Trial Court ordered the POC to reinstate the latter as the country’s rightful sports association for basketball.

Once reinstated, the BAP believes that the International Basketball Federation or FIBA would lift its suspension on the Philippines and therefore pave the way for the basketball competition in the SEA Games.

"(The court order) is immediately executory," said BAP president Joey Lina yesterday. This is a chance for the POC to rectify itself. Otherwise, the POC will be cited for contempt of court."

But the POC thinks otherwise.

In fact, the local Olympic body believes that the BAP is doing the country more harm than good when it brought the case to court — regardless of the verdict.

Robert Aventajado, chairman of the POC, said bringing the case to court is a "clear indication of ignorance of the International Olympic Committee charter that prohibits legal or political intervention" in its affairs.

Despite a strong clamor from different sectors for the holding of basketball in the SEA Games, Malacañang announced a few days ago that it has no plans of stepping into the picture.

Aventajado, speaking on behalf of POC president Peping Cojuangco, who seems to be fed up with the whole situation, said government intervention could lead to an IOC suspension on the Philippines.

"Kapit na sila (BAP) sa patalim kaya kahit mapahamak ang buong POC at lahat ng national sports associations wala na silang pakialam (They’re endangering the POC and entire National Sports Assocations with their desperate act). Yet, BAP president Joey Lina has the temerity to claim he is sincere in his effort," the POC said in a press statement.

Col. Buddy Andrada, former POC vice president, said even the country’s hosting of the SEA Games could be jeopardized if the IOC learns of this recent "court" development.

"Imagine, the BAP miraculously obtained the court decision in two days after their hearing. What if the IOC hands down a decision to suspend the POC for allowing court intervention also in 48 hours?"

Aventajado said the POC, through its legal counsel, Ding Tanjuatco, will pursue all legal remedies available to the Olympic body.

The POC said the Manila court failed to consider several things, among them a memorandum of understanding which the POC signed with FIBA during a meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, last Sept. 29.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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