The MPBL (Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League) welcomed Quezon Province and Negros Muscovados to its fold on Sunday night at Conrad Hotel Manila.
Quezon Province, owned by Gov. Dr. Helen Tang, was represented by Magnum Membrere and Atty. Donn Kapunan, and Negros, represented by team owner John Gilbor and his wife Grace, were present during the team owners’ meeting with MPBL Founder and CEO Manny Pacquiao and league officials led by Commissioner Kenneth Duremdes.
A total of 28 teams sent their representatives while Quezon City called to signify its intention to join the MPBL’s fifth regular season set to start on March 10 at a yet to be announced-venue.
This early, Quezon Province and Bataan have offered to host the opening ceremonies and games of the country’s top regional league.
Other teams present during the MPBL’s first general meeting this year were Bacolod, Bacoor, Batangas, Bulacan, General Santos, Iloilo, Imus, Laguna, Makati, Manila, Marikina, Mindoro, Muntinlupa, Paranaque, Pasay, Pasig, Rizal Province, San Juan, Valenzuela, Zamboanga, Cebu and Caloocan.
Pasay, Paranaque, Cebu, Iloilo and Bulacan will be returning after missing the highly successful 22-team fourth season.
Executive officer Joe Ramos presented a report of the league viewership under Cignal TV through One PH and One Sports Plus showing that the MPBL games enjoyed high ratings, averaging 108,000 viewers and posting 12 million audiences reach.
Apart from One PH and One Sports Plus, MPBL games will now be covered live through MPTV (Media Pilipinas) on Channel 98 Cignal HD.
Duremdes announced that the MPBL fifth season will take a break twice this year, in deference to the Holy Week and the FIBA World Cup which the country will be co-hosting from August 25-September 10.
Operations head Emmer Oreta said the teams will again be divided into the North and South division for the single round-robin elimination round which will last till September with the top eight teams advancing to the quarterfinals. The semifinal round will be a best-of-three affair and so will be the Division Finals. The National Finals featuring the North and South champions will again be a best-of-five series.
As in the fourth season, each team is allowed to name a 22-man roster, although only 15 players, with a maximum of seven ex-PBA players and five SGL (Special Gab License) players, can play each game.
San Juan Knights co-owner Sen. Jinggoy Estrada also attended and asked about the steps to be undertaken to improve officiating and was informed that there will be an officiating seminar and 21 new referees will be added to the MPBL pool of referees this year.
Pacquiao welcomed the teams and promised an even more successful season.
“We are focused on bringing joy to the Filipino basketball fans, giving the opportunity for local basketball players and promoting the country’s cities and provinces “Thank you for trusting the MPBL,” said Pacquiao, who also stressed that the league will again be on the watch for possible game-fixing of some players, referees and even team officials.
Toward this end, all MPBL teams will be provided with the list of players issued “yellow cards” by the league, meaning they’re under investigation for suspected involvement in game-fixing.
Pacquiao also announced that a pocket tournament to be held in General Santos City on February 22-27, serving as the MPBL’s Pre-Season with at least seven teams competing for a whopping P3 million champion’s purse. Nueva Ecija, represented by team owner Bong Cuevas and team manager Ivan Cuevas, GenSan, Sarangani, San Juan, Batangas, Imus and Team Bulalakaw of Pacquiao have signified their intentions to join.