One notable facet of organized competitive basketball in the Philippines, from the collegiate leagues to the pros in the PBA, is the prominence of “imports,” foreigner players signed on to teams for a season or two to bolster their manpower against opposing squads. While celebrated at times for helping favored teams to many victories, imports also get perceived as crutches at best, or statistical hogs at worst. A member of the 18th Congress would go so far as to say that over-reliance on imports may have led to the humiliation of Gilas Pilipinas at the recent FIBA Basketball World Cup, and is pushing for prohibiting them at the collegiate level.
The Philippine Star has it that Deputy House Speaker Mikee Romero of 1 Pacman Partylist has filed a bill this week to ban in collegiate school leagues the time-honored practice of recruiting non-Filipino imports, particularly via offering them athletic scholarships in their institutions. Rep. Romero notes that collegiate imports tend to focus all gameplay tactics to themselves, with homegrown Filipino players tending to become solely support to their offensive and defensive uses. Such a state robs actual Filipino college athletes from getting sufficient playing experience they need to take their games to pros and beyond.
Romero’s House Resolution No. 388, filed September 30, calls for the House of Representatives to pass legislation “to stop and prohibit all collegiate leagues from recruiting, acquiring and using non-Filipinos as players because in effect, it stops the growth and shortchanges the development of various sports programs in the Philippines.” Against possible accusations that he is a “killjoy” in de-escalating intense collegiate play by removing imports, Romero points out that universities and colleges with money to spare can count on getting the best foreign talent they could, which is unfair to other schools and could lead to the “destruction of the game” via unfair advantages.
Again, Mikee Romero points to the last-place finish of Gilas Pilipinas as a harsh lesson in what happens to Filipino basketball players that have depended too much on imports, with some players hailing from import-heavy collegiate and PBA teams. He also notes how many foreigners, especially African basketball players, exploit academic scholarships to simply flit from one league to another, selling their skills and services to desperate competitive teams. “Acquiring foreigners is not only counter-productive but is also more expensive to maintain a team,” says Romero adding, “Not to be greedy, but our fellow Filipinos are the greatest victims here.
Romero is an alumnus and former player of La Salle University and formed the pre-Gilas Philippine team that won gold for the country in the 2007 SEA Games in Thailand. He is also owner of PBA team NorthPort Batang Pier.
Image courtesy of Spin PH