By Jerome Lagunzad
This early, several provinces from all corners of the Philippine archipelago are already lining up to join the next conference of the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League.
Representatives from Danao City, Cebu and Masbate, along with other interested parties, have expressed their desire to form teams that will see action in the fledging home-and-away tourney which is a brainchild of Senator Manny Pacquiao.
On behalf of player agent and board member Matthew Manotoc, some Ilocos Norte officials and their counterparts from key cities of Laguna, Sta. Rosa, Biñan and San Pedro, also showed up during a meeting for potential expansion teams hosted by Pacquiao at the Shangri-La Plaza in Makati City last Wednesday night.
“Yan naman talaga ang gusto natin, ‘yung magkaroon tayo ng liga para sa lahat ng Pilipino. Maliit man o malaki, may opportunity sila dito,” said Pacquiao, who earlier expressed his optimism that the fledging tourney can serve as the local version of the National Basketball Association.
So far, 10 cities and provinces from Luzon, in partnership with their respective corporate sponsors, are vying for the bragging rights in the inaugural conference known as the Anta Rajah Cup.
They are Batangas City, Quezon City, Valenzuela, Muntinlupa, Bulacan, Navotas, Parañaque, Bataan, Imus, and Caloocan.
Pasig City, which also saw action in the defunct Metropolitan Basketball Association, the precursor of MPBL, appears committed in joining the next wave of expansion as its representatives even gave Pacquiao and commissioner Kenneth Duremdes a replica jersey of the Pasig Pirates.
Even former Senator Jinggoy Estrada is keen on reviving the San Juan Knights behind the group was headed by former national team coach Francis Rodriguez. Makati City could also participate as well as Bacoor City, Cavite.
Down south, there’s also strong interest that the Cebuano brand of basketball will be featured, with former pro stars Al Solis and Bonel Balingit likely to lead the creation of the team.