SEOUL, APRIL 4, 2006 (STAR) By Joaquin Henson - A high-powered Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) delegation and representatives of four major cage stakeholders will brief Federation Internationale de Basketball (FIBA) secretary-general Patrick Baumann on the progress of their compliance with conditions set for the lifting of the country’s suspension in a private session at the Grand Intercontinental Hotel here early tonight.

POC president Jose Cojuangco, Jr., first vice president Rep. Monico Puentevella of Bacolod City, secretary-general Steve Hontiveros and legal counsel Egmidio Tanjuatco comprise the POC delegation that arrived here Saturday to attend a series of Olympic-related meetings.

Representing the stakeholders are Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) chairman Ely Capacio of San Miguel Corp., vice chairman Ricky Vargas of Talk ‘N’ Text and commissioner Noli Eala, Philippine Basketball League (PBL) commissioner Chino Trinidad, member of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) Board of Trustees Jun-Jun Capistrano and National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) vice chairman Paul Supan of Jose Rizal University.

The stakeholder representatives, except for Vargas, are arriving here late this afternoon and will motor straight to the Grand Intercontinental Hotel for the meeting with Baumann. Vargas flew in earlier from Singapore on a business trip.

Eala said he is optimistic that Baumann, a Swiss lawyer, will not ignore the efforts of Pilipinas Basketball, the new cage federation endorsed by the POC as the National Sports Association (NSA) and FIBA country affiliate, to end the leadership impasse that led to the suspension.

"It will be an injustice to the country if the efforts are ignored," said Eala. "The suspension is bad enough. We hope Mr. Baumann heeds the call of the majority to put our basketball house in order and that he is reasonable, logical and sensible in appreciating the signs of the times."

Eala said the presence of the stakeholders in the meeting will allow Baumann the opportunity to get to know the representatives personally.

"We don’t intend to press Mr. Baumann to make any kind of decision," continued Eala. "We only wish to show him how serious the stakeholders are and to brief him on what we’ve done and what we’re willing to do for Philippines basketball."

Eala said the stakeholders are prepared to commit their resources for the strongest possible national team to represent the country in FIBA competitions.

"In the past, the BAP (Basketball Association of the Philippines) was unable to send the best players from the UAAP and NCAA to represent the country but now, all the stakeholders are making a solid commitment to Pilipinas Basketball for this purpose,’ said Eala. "This commitment is enshrined in the proposed constitution and by-laws we submitted to FIBA for approval two weeks before the March 31 deadline."

Eala said the major stakeholders are also committed to expand the base of Pilipinas Basketball to involve other stakeholders.

"We’ve begun the process of enlisting other stakeholders," said Eala. "So far, we’ve received positive feedback from leagues such as the NAASCU, Negros Basketball Association, NOCSEA and others. We’ve got individual assignments to reach out to more stakeholders and the response has been very encouraging."

Eala said once the FIBA suspension order is lifted, the country will be ready to field a competitive team to the Asian Games in Doha late this year.

"While there is no definite commitment from the PBA or PBL as to the national team composition, we’re all working together under an umbrella organization and since the national program with coach Chot Reyes is in place, it’s not far-fetched to imagine we’ll send a championship contender to the Asian Games,"said Eala.

Eala described the BAP’s attempt to discredit Pilipinas Basketball’s efforts as "pathetic, selfish and divisive."

"The BAP is trying to muddle the issue," he said. "But the truth is only one group is holding us back and that’s the BAP."

Trinidad said he is confident something positive will come out of the meeting tonight.

"Mr. Baumann knows what’s going on in Philippine basketball," said Trinidad. "He does his homework. He’s logical and he’s intelligent. I remember he once objected to the BAP’s constitution and by-laws which provide for perpetuity in power.

We believe the major stakeholders have taken a step in the right direction for the lifting of our suspension. Now that we’ve submitted our proposed constitution and by-laws for FIBA approval, we’re waiting for Mr. Baumann to advise us what to do next."

Trinidad said BAP president Joey Lina’s refusal to align with the major stakeholders should not be a hindrance to the process of lifting the country’s suspension.

"One man does not make a federation," said Trinidad. "The entire country is being held hostage by one person representing an expelled NSA. We’re sure Mr. Baumann will see that because in FIBA’s own website, there is a quote from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar stating, "One man can be a crucial ingredient on a team but one man cannot make a team."

Trinidad lauded the PBA for taking the lead in the effort to solve the crisis.

"The top brass of the PBA flying to Seoul tells you something," he said. "You can’t doubt their intentions and commitment. The PBA has taken the boldest step. This may not happen again and the country can’t pass this chance up. The BAP is asking for more time but they’ve run out of time. The BAP is a thing of the past and we’re now moving forward in the best interest of Philippine basketball."

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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