FEBRUARY 6, 2007
(STAR) By Abac Cordero - Finally, a united front in Philippine basketball.

In a rare show of unity, the biggest basketball figures in the country packed the Dusit Hotel grand ballroom yesterday and witnessed the birth of a new basketball association that is, hopefully, meant to last.

And after a three-hour Unity Congress attended by more than 300, the Basketball Association of the Philippines-Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (BAP-SBP) was finally announced along with its fresh set of officers.

The BAP-SBP now has to secure an accreditation from the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) before it files for application with the International Basketball Federation or FIBA. Then the lifting of the FIBA suspension on the Philippines comes next.

"I think it will take as long as it takes here in the Philippines. Once the accreditation is secured from the POC, then the group will file its application with FIBA. Itís just a matter of receiving a letter and sending it back," said FIBA secretary-general Patrick Baumann.

The FIBA official flew in from Bangkok just to witness the Unity Congress. He flew out just a few hours after, bringing with him hopes that the basketball crisis in the Philippines is finally over.

"Itís just a matter of formality. But no, the suspension has not been lifted yet," said Baumann, who was also in the country in 2000 to help solve another problem, a leadership issue within the BAP. Cage unity forged as BAP-SBP unveiled "Itís my pleasure," he said of having to fly in each time a serious problem arises. "Itís my job and I had to do it."

Rep. Monico Puentevella, vice president of the POC, said the Olympic body sees no problem recognizing the BAP-SBP as the new national sports association for basketball despite the fact that it has expelled the BAP as member in 2005.

As it is, only Pilipinas Basketball, once headed by Bernie Atienza, was dissolved.

"My presence here is an official representation of the POC. And itís a reflection of the POC concern in this issue. The POC will act accordingly. And itís going to be very fast ó probably early next week," said Puentevella.

The BAP-SBP will soon file a newapplication with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Elected to the executive board of the BAP-SBP were Cong. Luis Villafuerte, chairman; Ricky Vargas, vice chairman; Manny V. Pangilinan, president; Atty. Marievic Anonuevo, corporate secretary; Christian Tan, treasurer; Atty. Bonifacio Alentajan, legal counsel; and Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, special adviser.

The position of executive director remained vacant. A search committee will be formed for this purpose, meaning that someone from outside of the current circle or set of officers will most probably occupy the sensitive position.

Named to the 25-seat board of trustees were (geographic sector) Raul Alcoseba, Alentajan, Pedro Alfaro, Rey Baula, Elmer Cabahug, Fr. Paul de Vera, Tony Fabico, Graham Lim, Danny Soria and Joey Lina; (professional) Ely Capacio, Tony Chua, Noli Eala and Ricky Vargas; (school) Atienza, Jose Capistrano, Fritz Gaston, Christian Tan and Wilson Young; (commercial) Lito Alvarez, Michel Lhuillier and Chino Trinidad; (special) Tisha Abundo; and (youth) Nic Jorge.

Ely Capacio, the former PBA chairman, heads the membership committee, Capistrano the finance and audit committee, and Rep. Douglas Cagas the ethics committee.

These officers will serve the association until 2008 when a new election, a regular one under the groupís by-laws, is held.

Former senator and basketball icon Robert Jaworski was guest speaker during the Unity Congress.

"Position or no position, I will continue to serve Philippine basketball. I think this is the happiest day in Philippine basketball," said Estrada.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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