MANILA, Philippines -- The management of Basilan Steel on Monday made it clear that they did not ask the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL) or its sponsor, Chooks-to-Go, to pay for the expenses they incurred while staying at the Subic Bay Peninsular Hotel.
Basilan was forced to forfeit its do-or-die game against Davao Occidental in the South Division finals after four of its players tested positive for COVID-19 in the MPBL's bubble in Subic Bay.
It was a decision that did not sit well with the team's management, who said in a statement that they were "sacrificed" for the sake of finishing the MPBL Lakan Cup. Davao Occidental went on to win the championship, beating San Juan in four games.
According to Matthew David, executive director of Basilan Steel, they decided to let the members of their delegation who returned negative tests return home on March 16, the same day that the MPBL announced their forfeiture of the game against Davao. The first batch went home the next day after getting permits from their respective local government units.
The remaining members of the Basilan delegation checked out of the hotel on March 18. David told ABS-CBN News that they paid the hotel P200,000 from a bill of P655,000, with the agreement that the balance will be settled on Thursday, March 24.
"No request for payment or urgency is needed," David said. "That is why we were shocked seeing all of these articles claiming Senator (Manny) Pacquiao and Chooks-to-Go's efforts were the reason (Basilan) got out (of the bubble)."
In a statement on Sunday, Chooks-to-Go announced that, together with Pacquiao, they have shouldered the cost of Basilan's stay in the Subic Bay Peninsular Hotel. This came after a meeting among Bounty Agro Ventures Inc. (BAVI) president Ronald Mascariñas, Pacquiao, the founder of the MPBL, and league commissioner Kenneth Duremdes.
"At the end of the day, Councilor Hegem Furigay and Basilan are still our partners in the league who brought us countless memories during the Lakan season. It's unfortunate that they had to forfeit their game but it is the protocols given to the league by the Department of Health," said Mascariñas.
"For our part, as a staunch partner and sponsor of the MPBL, we are shouldering the cost of Basilan's stay in Subic Bay Peninsular."
Pacquiao, in the same statement, was quoted as saying: "To Basilan, I hope this shows that the MPBL, Chooks-to-Go, and I are committed to each team despite the situation given to us."
A statement, supplied to ABS-CBN News by Basilan Steel legal counsel Atty. Vladimir T. Jimenez, made it clear that the team "did not ask for MPBL management and its sponsor to settle our looming hotel bills."
"Matter of fact, Basilan Steel has executed a contract with Subic Bay Peninsular as regards our stay in the said hotel. We have paid the initial deposit or down payment at the time or prior to our stay with the hotel," Jimenez said.
"Further, after we were unceremoniously sent home by MPBL, our team through its representative made a promise to settle the balance or unpaid accounts with the hotel on March 24, 2021, which is as of this writing not yet due and demandable."
For David, the situation only made them "more agitated and frustrated."
He insists that "nobody asked them to pay, but they did."
"They paid the hotel P455,000. This payment without our knowledge just added insult to injury," he said. "Kung ang hotel maniningil ng payment they should've asked us. Because we were the ones who signed the agreement, not MPBL or Chooks-to-Go."
The copy of the agreement with the hotel was signed by Basilan Steel coach Jerson Cabiltes, indicating that the remaining balance amounting to P455,535 will be paid on March 24. The agreement was signed on March 19.
David and Basilan Steel are miffed at what they perceive to be the MPBL's effort to "save face" after the snafu regarding their forfeiture of the game and the questions raised regarding their protocols.
"It was through our efforts that (the team) got out of there," David stressed. "Not them. That's why we wanted to clear the air."
"No efforts (were) made by the MPBL to help initially," he added. "They are only doing this to save face, and it just made us more agitated and frustrated as before."
"We have requested that the hotel honor the agreement, and return the check that was paid on Saturday, March 20, to Bounty Agro Ventures (Chooks-to-Go)," David also confirmed.
The owner of Basilan Steel, Hegem Furigay, has previously demanded refunds of their expenses. David made it clear that their expenses are more than just the amount incurred by their stay in the hotel.
"If they give it, okay," he said. "If they don't, okay pa din."
In the meantime, Mayor Julz Hataman of Basilan has demanded "full accountability" from officials of the MPBL, "to save whatever is left with the credibility and integrity of the league."
Hataman emphasized that they remain "disappointed by an unjust decision" that kept Basilan Steel from playing in the do-or-die game against Davao Occidental. According to Jimenez, they had 12 players available to play against the Tigers, all of whom returned negative COVID-19 tests.
Asked what the current situation means for Basilan Steel's status in the MPBL, David said: "We are mulling a pullout, but it's too early to say."
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