BATANGAS City — THE Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) opens its fourth season at the Batangas City Sports Coliseum, April 25.Senator Manny Paquiao, chairman and founder of the country’s top regional league, and bigwigs of Cignal, the country’s premier DTH satellite provider, graced the premiere of the tournament as they earlier sealed a coverage agreement Friday night at Conrad Manila Hotel, Seaside Boulevard, Pasay City.
MPBL inaugural champion Batangas City Athletics and Datu Cup champion San Juan Knights head the 20 teams competing in the round-robin elimination round of the tournament which deviated from its usual June 12 opening.
MPBL Commissioner Kenneth Duremdes officially opened the league in the presence of Sen. Pacquiao, Congressman Marvey A. Mariño of the lone district of Batangas City and majority of the owners or representatives of the MPBL’s 32 teams. Operations head Emmer Oreta, and league operations coordinator Joe Ramos were also present.
Competing teams in this season include Batangas, San Juan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Makati, Bataan, Valenzuela, Manila, Zamboanga, Imus, Bacolod, Saranggani, General Santos City, Negros Occidental, Mindoro, Pasig, Rizal, Quezon City, Marikina and Caloocan.
Pasig, San Juan, and Rizal were originally listed among the tentative teams, while Quezon City, Marikina and Caloocan were among those taking a leave of absence.
Sen. Pacquiao’s persuasive powers, however, swayed the six teams to participate. Other teams listed in the tentative side are Bacoor, Laguna, Basilan, Pasay and Bicol. Those which intends to take a leave of absence are Cebu, Iloilo, Bulacan, Navotas, Paranaque, and defending champion Davao Occidental.
According to Sen. Pacquiao, who came from a campaign sortie in Nasugbu and Calatagan, Batangas, the trophy and rings of the Davao Tigers, champions of the MPBL Lakan Cup, will be handed out during the opening ceremonies.
“Alam po natin na ito ang pinakahihintay ng ating mga kababayan at naniniwala tayo na ang pagbubukas muli ng MPBL ay magiging daan para sa ikauunlad ng ating mga kababayang manlalaro habang nakababawi na tayo mula sa pandemya,” said Pacquiao.
The senator also lauded the hospitality of Batangas City for hosting the opening of the league’s fourth season, and assured the youth and athletes of continued support for sports and youth development.
The league would have sanctioned an MPBL tournament in the United Arab Emirates in 2020 but the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on the league’s schedule. Knowing that many teams were affected by the pandemic, Pacquiao said a percentage of league earnings this year would be given to the team owners to help them tide things over.
Each team will have a minimum of 15 and a maximum of 24 players, including seven former PBA players, five collegiate players with special guest license from the Games and Amusement Board, at least three homegrowns and two Fil-foreigners, who must be at least 18 years old and Philippine passport holder.|-BNN/jmr