Pacquiao in town for basketball
Emmanuel B. Villaruel (The Freeman) - April 29, 2018 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — Filipino ring star Manny Pacquiao set foot in Cebu yesterday not to talk about boxing but to advance something about the other sport that is equally close to his heart - basketball.

The fighting senator held a consultative conference with all the stakeholders in commercial hoopdom all over the Visayas and Mindanao yesterday at the Waterfront-Cebu City Hotel and Casino to lay down the framework of his planned expansion of the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) in the Vis-Min region.    

Pacquiao founded MPBL in August 2017. It features a regional commercial teams with a home locality in addition to a corporate sponsor similar to that of the defunct Metropolitan Basketball Association (MBA).

The inaugural MPBL conference dubbed as the Anta Rajah Cup took off last January 25, with 10 teams in action. The Batangas City Athletics emerged as the league's first ever champion.

Now Pacquiao wants MPBL to become a nationwide league with active participation from Visayas and Mindanao teams.

"It is really our plan to accommodate teams from the Visayas and Mindanao because this part of our grassroots program to discover talents in the countryside," said Pacquiao.

League commissioner Kenneth Duremdes, one of the PBA all-time greats, said they hope to achieve their target in time for the staging of their second conference on June 12.

Duremdes said their first full season will be divided into Northern and Southern divisions. The division champions will slug it out in the national finals, with the winner pocketing a gold-encrusted trophy worth P10 million plus ball rings for all the members of the champion squad.

Three teams from Cebu have expressed their intent to take part in Pacquiao's league. These are the International Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (IPI), Cebu Landmasters and M. Lhuillier.

Zamboanga, Davao, Cagayan de Oro, Bacolod and Pacquiao's hometown General Santos City are also set to ride in Pacquiao's basketball wagon.

The concern of the majority of the teams, however, is the P10 million franchise fee and the home-away format that for them is too costly if they constantly travel to Manila and other areas in Luzon. Duremdes though promised to address them all.

As for Pacquiao, those who will be joining will get something good out of the league.    

"Sino ang nagtiwala sa ating liga ay may mapapala sila," assured Pacquiao, boxing only eight-division world champion who is set to challenge WBA welterweight titleholder Lucas Matthysse of Argentina in his ring comeback on July 15 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

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