The $80,000 question

SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - May 12, 2021 - 12:00am

A week ago, the former POC-recognized NSA for volleyball LVPI (Larong Volleyball Sa Pilipinas, Inc.) threatened FIVB (Federacion Internationale de Volleyball) with court action if it is not refunded $80,000 which was paid to settle the country’s outstanding debt to the world body in 2015. LVPI president Joey Romasanta signed the letter addressed to FIVB president Dr. Ary Garcia through FIVB director general Fabio Azevedo.

Romasanta initially brought up the issue last January. “Enough has been said on the matter but to no avail and your unresponsive attitude towards LVPI,” he wrote. “Should FIVB continue not to heed our demands, we shall be forced to take the unfortunate route of seeking the appropriate judicial intervention to address our quest for justice and financial restitution.”

LVPI was created to supplant PVF (Philippine Volleyball Federation) which incurred the debt to FIVB during its term as the country’s member organization. Because the Philippines had long been inactive in the sport, the Asian Volleyball Confederation approached Romasanta to do something about the situation in 2014. As POC first vice president, Romasanta used his clout to engineer LVPI’s recognition with POC. Whatever was Romasanta’s personal motive to become LVPI president is beside the point. LVPI settled the Philippines’ debt as a condition for recognition by FIVB. But for some reason, the FIVB General Assembly never gave the required 2/3 vote to recognize LVPI. Meanwhile, PVF insisted it was still the legitimate NSA for volleyball, causing FIVB to call POC’s attention. To resolve the conflict, newly-elected POC president Rep. Bambol Tolentino got the opposing parties together to establish a new organization called the Philippine National Volleyball Federation, Inc. (PNVFI) and elect a fresh set of officers. PNVFI was then recognized as the country’s affiliate with FIVB last February.

With LVPI out of the picture, Romasanta said it should be paid back the $80,000 that was remitted to FIVB. Romasanta said LVPI is still an “active” corporate entity and mentioned when the $80,000 is returned, it will be given to LVPI official Peter Cayco who spent millions of his own money to fund different LVPI projects. Romasanta, however, admitted that Cayco isn’t asking to be reimbursed and the $80,000 actually came from the proceeds of the Asian U23 Women’s Championships held at the PhilSports Arena in 2015. “Fair is fair,” argued Romasanta. “Binigay namin yung $80,000 as a condition for LVPI recognition. Since hindi kami nabigyan ng recognition, dapat isauli nila yung pera.” But the fact is the $80,000 was used to pay the Philippine debt to FIVB. Although the debt was incurred during PVF’s affiliation, it was a Philippine obligation not a PVF obligation. If LVPI gets back the $80,000, it will mean the Philippines returning to the FIVB doghouse with the same debt.

Romasanta said LVPI served as the NSA for volleyball from 2015 to 2021 and accomplished a lot, including the Philippines’ comeback to the SEA Games after a long absence, arranging for training of national players in Thailand and raising the game’s popularity to an unprecedented level. To preserve LVPI’s legacy, shouldn’t it just keep the $80,000 with FIVB as its contribution to the country? After all, the amount was paid to settle the Philippines’ debt even as PVF was the party guilty of the irresponsibility. Besides, the $80,000 came from the earnings of a volleyball project, not from any person’s pocket. Why test FIVB’s patience to revive a ticklish issue that was settled six years ago? That is the $80,000 question.

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