Is Philta resolution in sight?
Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - April 17, 2017 - 6:47pm

MANILA, Philippines - There is urgency to resolve the unsettled power struggle in the Philippine Tennis Association (PHILTA) with the country’s national team reeling from a recent wipeout to Thailand in the second round of the Asia/Oceania Group II Davis Cup competitions.

With less than two weeks to prepare, the Philippines sent a three-man team skippered by late replacement Martin Misa to battle Thailand in Nonthaburi last April 7-9. Three mainstays from the squad that beat Indonesia, 4-1, in the first round here last February backed out as Treat Huey, Ruben Gonzales and Niño Alcantara begged off in the wake of uncertainties surrounding Philta’s shaky preparations for the tie.

Karl Santamaria, the NU men’s tennis coach who was the Philippine captain in the last three Davis Cup ties, also withdrew, citing circumstances that he described as “demoralizing” and “disturbing.” Santamaria was ready to bring the team to Thailand but when Philta de facto officer-in-charge Romy Magat suggested to arrive in Nonthaburi two days before the start of the tournament to save on expenses, he declined the position.

Left to carry the cudgels for the Philippines were P. J. Tierro, 31, Jeson Patrombon, 24 and A. J. Lim, 17. They were ranged against Wishaya Trongcharoenchaikul, 22, Jirat Navasirisomboon, 20 and twins Sonchai and Sonchat Ratiwatana, 35. The outcome was a foregone conclusion as the Thais gave up only a set in arranging a duel with Pakistan in September for the right to be promoted to Group I.

Wishaya got the ball rolling with a 7-6, 6-4, 6-3 win over Lim then Jirat repulsed Patrombon, 2-6, 7-6, 6-1, 6-1. The Ratiwatana twins trounced Patrombon and Tierro, 6-1, 6-4, 6-2 in doubles for the clincher. In the no-bearing reverse singles, Wishaya downed Tierro, 6-4, 6-1 and Jirat turned back Lim, 6-4, 6-2. It was the first 5-0 thrashing for the Philippines since New Zealand in Group I in 2011. The Philippines has been buried in Group II since its demotion in 2012. 

Former Philta vice president Randy Villanueva said yesterday a meeting has been called on Friday by Magat to resolve the leadership vacuum. With the resignation of Philta president Buddy Andrada, the POC has ordered the return of the status quo and is once more recognizing Parañaque Mayor Edwin Olivarez as head. There were at least three attempts to bring order to the Philta row but none has been successful because of political wrangling. 

Villanueva said the group affiliated with tennis benefactor Jean Henri Lhuillier has asked to advance the Philta meeting to Thursday but no confirmation has been made. The POC will be represented in the meeting.

Villanueva said the Philippines’ blowout loss to Thailand was sad and an indication that things are far from healthy in Philta’s affairs. Even International Tennis Federation (ITF) president David Haggerty flew in from his London office to try to resolve the Philta problem with POC president Jose Cojuangco Jr. last September. Now the situation has worsened with the withdrawal of Philippine tennis’ main sponsors from backing Philta.

Santamaria said Philta hasn’t shown concern for the athletes and it’s causing widespread demoralization within the ranks. “Our players aren’t being cared for,” he said. “Ruben and Treat haven’t been paid back for advances they’ve made for the Philippine team. They’ve submitted receipts and an accounting of what they’ve spent but so far, they haven’t been reimbursed. The PSC now has a policy that if they don’t buy the plane ticket for an athlete to go abroad, they won’t reimburse any advance. It’s like playing musical chairs. When the music stops, you’re left with no chair.”

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