JANUARY 26, 2007
(MALAYA) BY NOLI CORTEZ - THE Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas is looking to earn recognition from the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) by early March.

In a talk with sportswriters last Wednesday, PBA chairman Ricky Vargas bared a high-level FIBA meeting is scheduled in Thailand on March 2-3, well after the final pieces in the official formation of the SBP have been put into place.

"We have the Unity Congress set on Feb. 5 and that is the final step in the SBP’s formation. After that, we hope to earn POC accreditation and we can then personally submit our SBP papers to the FIBA in Thailand," related Vargas.

Vargas was with the SBP delegation that met with FIBA’s top officials last week in Geneva, Switzerland, where it was agreed the final step in the SBP’s creation is the Unity Congress set at the Dusit Hotel in Makati.

The PLDT executive debunked some reports the SBP mission was a failure, claiming there was no excessive fanfare following their return since the entire unification process is not over yet.

"Besides, it will be the FIBA that will make the final announcement," Vargas pointed out.

Top priority in the Unity Congress is the election of officers of the SBP, which will replace the BAP and Pilipinas Basketball and become the country’s governing body in the sport.

Once the SBP is firmly in place and the FIBA suspension lifted, Vargas said the Nationals will see action in the Southeast Asian championship the Philippines is bidding for in May.

"There is a very strong possibility we will be host of the SEABA," said Vargas, but refused to expound further.

The unification efforts being undertaken fall within the terms of the agreement crafted by the BAP, attested to by the FIBA and signed by all the parties last Aug. 28 known as the Tokyo Communiqué.

Under the agreement, a three-man panel headed by businessman Manny V. Pangilinan and made up of a representative each from the BAP and PB will oversee the unification process.

The BAP has reneged on the agreement, however, its latest move having Chairman Emeritus Lito Puyat asking the FIBA, through a letter, to remove Pangilinan from the panel.

Vargas said FIBA secretary-general Patrick Baumann allowed the SBP delegation to read Puyat’s letter, but declined to reveal what transpired in the discussion that ensued.

PBA Commissioner Noli Eala, who was with the SBP delegation in the meeting, said former FIBA Secretary-General Borislav Stankovic made some comments that "were not very flattering for Mr. Puyat."

At the same time, Eala repeated his call for all the sport’s major stakeholders, including all the BAP’s 66 members, to attend the Unity Congress.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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