(STAR) By Nelson Beltran -The first order for the BAP-Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas this new year is to work on a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the UAAP and the NCAA as practically all member schools have welcomed the possible merger between the two leagues at least this coming season.

SBP executive director Patrick Gregorio said the federation, headed by businessman-sportsman Manny V. Pangilinan, is now preparing a letter for the separate boards of the two varsity leagues, recommending the formation of an ad hoc organizing committee to discuss concerns, issues and ideas for the unification.

“Everybody’s excited with the proposal and we really have to take advantage of it as we’re confident the plan will benefit the schools and the sport,” said Gregorio.

“We’re happy other national sports associations see the potential of this project. We’re happy the swimming association sees this as a brilliant idea. Hopefully, the other stakeholders see it that way too,” Gregorio added. “Mr. MVP is sincere in his effort to help. He sees it as a way to boost the sports programs of the schools and Philippine sports in general.”

Pangilinan and Gregorio were to meet yesterday afternoon to discuss the federation’s other plans and programs.

“It’s New Year’s Day and Mr. MVP is calling a meeting. It just shows his dedication in basketball,” said Gregorio.

“We’ll pursue the (NCAA-UAAP merger) plan. We’ll do it step by step. The basic recommendation is let’s go for the big one. It’s not really a merger but let’s play together in 2008,” added Gregorio.

The SBP, for one, is looking to strengthen the country’s varsity program this year in preparation for the World University Games in Belgrade next year.

Major concerns in the possible merger are the tournament format, rules and the two league’s contracts with TV coverer ABS-CBN.

Gregorio, however, is confident the ad hoc organizing committee can address these.

“This is not only an SBP-UP-Mapua affair. Anybody who wants to help formulate the program is welcome. The UAAP and the NCAA will still make the final decisions at yun TV coverage pwede rin naman sa ABS-CBN pa rin mapunta,” said Gregorio.

As UAAP this coming school year, the University of the Philippines is spearheading the plan as part of its centennial founding anniversary. Mapua, meanwhile, is the host of the next NCAA season.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved