A MULTI-BILLION peso mining company is stepping forward as a ‘neutral body’ ready to back future national teams amid the crisis over the formation of the Gilas squad to the Fiba Asia men's basketball championship.
Nickel Asia is offering its help as an independent company neither affiliated with Manny V. Pangilinan's organization nor the San Miguel Corp. group which could stand behind the national in the coming years, in the hope of reuniting Philippine basketball again.
Lawyer Bodeck Fernando, vice president for legal and human resources of Nickel Asia, told Spin.ph that he will immediately talk to vice president for corporate affairs JB Baylon to work on a proposal for a sponsorship of the national team when the company's board meets this week.
“Basta kung papayagan kami, why not? For as long as we get the necessary approvals (from our company, the PBA, and the Samahang Basketbol Ng Pilipinas), okay kami,” said Fernando.
“We have been monitoring the pulse of the Filipinos, and I personally believe that it’s high time a neutral company, not affiliated with any PBA team, come in to help Pilipinas basketball,” he added.
The unconditional offer comes in the wake of the pullout of players from the Gilas camp specifically those belonging to the SMC umbrella, a known rival faction of the MVP group, whose head also happens to be the president of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SMB).
Not a single player from the SMC organization is part of the current Gilas pool, drawing the ire of fans despite SMC management's statement that the three players included by Gilas coach Tab Baldwin in his 16-man training pool – June Mar Fajardo, LA Tenorio, and Marc Pingris – were all given the go-signal to join the team.
Not a few basketball insiders believe that wranglings in the national team formation were inevitable, considering the rivalry among team owners in the PBA - both on the court and in business.
They Said It!
“Finally! Someone steps in to resolve the issue. No more corporate wars." - melvinmags
Many believe it's high time an independent body should take over the national team program to prevent dissension amon the ranks.
Now comes Nickel Asia with its offer.
Nickel Asia is no longer new to sponsoring major basketball events having handled the last staging of the PBA All Stars in Palawan. The company owned by mining baron Manny B. Zamora spent more than P8 million to host the midseason classic, doubling cash prizes at stake while opening the event free to the public.
Fernando, a University of Pennsylvania Law Masters graduate, admitted being aware of how Gilas has been having problems getting players to the pool.
“Without even saying, alam naman natin that some teams have reservations lending players. We read that a team now refuses to loan players because they’re afraid na baka mapirata ng iba,” he said.
“I believe there is really a need for a neutral company (to come in), kasi ang nagiging isyu is yung possible na piracy (of players). So kung may conglomerate na walang team sa PBA, mawawala yung isyu na 'yun,” he said.
Nickel Asia is reportedly ready to earmark P20million as initial budget for the Gilas program.
Fernando bared he will personally push for the Gilas proposal the same way he did when the hosting of the PBA All Stars was first offered to Nickel Asia.
“I will try to push for it. Para sa akin, I think it will be beneficial for the country if we can help. If they will allow us to help, our company has been very active in corporate social responsibilities,” said Fernando while stressing how Nickel Asia spends millions in pesos to uplift grassroots basketball in the countryside particularly in Palawan, Surigao del Norte, Leyte, and Samar.
“Kasi yung All Stars nga sinuportahan ng company, malaki-laking budget rin 'yun. Ilang araw lang 'yun. Pero ito for the country and for Philippine pride,” added the legal head of Nickel Asia.
Asked if Pangilinan’s ownership of Philex Mining in Benguet will pose a possible conflict for Nickel Asia, should they be given the nod to handle the finances of the Gilas program, Fernando had a quick response.
They Said It!
“There is a mistrust kasi. MVP is a team owner, while the coaches are all employed by MVP. Look at NBA, Coach K is not coaching any NBA teams and USA basketball is never involved in the nba." - Randy Anicete
“Walang problema 'yun. Hindi kami direct competitiors. Gold ang Philex, nickel ang Nickel Asia,” he said.
The company also doesn’t see problems dealing with the PBA board since Baylon is a former vice chairman of the pro league.
Baylon served as team manager of the Powerade Team Pilipinas, the national squad where all PBA teams willingly lent players when it represented the country in the 2009 Fiba-Asia Men’s Championship.