MANILA, March 16, 2006
(STAR) By Nelson Beltran - The Philippine Olympic Committee, in principle, gave its approval on the application of Pilipinas Basketball as the new national association for basketball for inclusion in the POC roster despite strong opposition from BAP president Joey Lina.

"Iíll still review the draft of their by-laws and constitution, but more or less my answer would be yes," said POC president Jose "Peping" Cojuangco Jr. who was given by the POC executive board the sole authority to decide on the matter.

Cojuangco said he might suggest minor amendments in the proposed by-laws before making the formal announcement today.

The new cage body, composed of the PBA, PBL, UAAP and NCAA, presented to the POC its by-laws which the group claimed it crafted under strict compliance of the memorandum of understanding between the POC and the Fiba ó except the non-participation of Lina.

PBA commissioner Noli Eala expressed optimism they can still convince Lina to join the group and help in their effort to lift the Philippinesí suspension by the Fiba.

"I want to make it clear that Mr. Lina and our group have the same intention. We just have different views on how to do it. Mr. Lina wanted to use the BAP model which initially, I must admit, was okay with us. But along the way, we saw more problems using that model," said Eala.

In the end, Eala, the lead facilitator of the group, said they opted to craft by-laws and constitution patterned after the USA Basketball.

Initially, Pilipinas Basketball will have a 15-man board from where its founding officials will come from. The PBA will have six seats while the PBL, UAAP and NCAA three each. Later on, they would admit associate or affiliate members for complete unification of the stakeholders in all levels of the sport.

On the possibility of their application for Fiba recognition being turned down, Eala said: "Itís now really up to them. At least, nobody would say we didnít do our job."

For Lina, the surest and fastest way to lift the Fiba suspension is for the BAP to amend its constitution with direct participation of the PBA, PBL, UAAP and NCAA in preparation for necessary adjusments that will follow the Fiba guidelines, and then for the POC to reinstate the BAP as a member.

Lina cited what Fiba secretary-general Patrick Baumann said in a letter to Cojuangco that "should the POC wish to revisit its position on BAP, the MoU process is unnecessary and our ban can be lifted immediately."

Lina also said "the return to status quo or BAP return to POC process" had been the consensus reached by the group earlier.

"We met four times using this process. On the fifth meeting, which I was unable to attend as I was preparing for a foreign trip, another process was abruptly agreed upon. If media reports are correct, then I, would say, the other stakeholders drew a smaller circle that kept me out, using the MoU process which we did not agree on in the first place," said Lina.

During the POC executive board meeting, Philippine IOC representative Frank Elizalde expressed doubt the Fiba would lift its suspension of the Philippines without clear unity among its leaders.

Should Fiba refuse to reinstate the Philippines, special committee member Mark Joseph said they would elevate the case to IOCís Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS).

"I think thereís no reason for Fiba not to reinstate the Philippines after the strict compliance of the MoU except the non participation of Mr. Lina. But who is Mr. Lina compared to these four groups who are really the major stakeholders in Philippine basketball. Mr. Lina is just one individual," said POC legal counsel Ding Tanjuatco.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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