MANILA - Will the Philippine National Volleyball Federation (PNVF) allow star middle blocker Jaja Santiago to play for Japan?
PNVF President Ramon "Tats" Suzara on Saturday acknowledged that he and Santiago briefly discussed the offer made to her by her V.League club, the Saitama Ageo Medics, to facilitate her change of nationality.
"Jaja, during the tryouts, kind of discussed with me the possibility for her to play in Japan, to change her federation," said Suzara on "The Chasedown," referring to the national team tryouts in Subic last April 28.
Santiago was one of only 16 players to attend the tryouts, after several other veterans begged off due to health and safety reasons.
The middle blocker is coming off a historic campaign with the Ageo Medics, as she helped them win the inaugural Division 1 V.Cup in late March. They also finished fifth in the V.League tournament.
Santiago has since revealed that her club has given her an offer to change her nationality, which will allow her to play for the Ageo Medics as a local rather than as an import. It will also qualify her to play for Japan's national team, a regular competitor in the Olympic Games.
The former UAAP Most Valuable Player has admitted that it's a tempting offer especially as it will give her the chance to achieve her dreams of playing at the highest level of the sport.
"Well, may dream ako maglaro ng Olympics," Santiago said in early April, when she first revealed the development. "Pero siyempre, may pride pa din naman ako. Pilipino pa din naman ako. Gusto kong tulungan 'yung bansa natin."
Suzara said he has warned Santiago that switching federations will not be a straightforward process.
According to the regulations of the FIVB, a player needs to meet certain conditions in order to change their federation of origin. These include: a two-year residency in the country of the new federation, and obtaining citizenship of that country.
Moreover, the player's original federation must first agree to the change.
"The Philippine National Volleyball Federation has to approve first her change of federation of origin going to the Japan Volleyball Association. And once the Japan Volleyball Association needs to process that, it needs FIVB approval," Suzara explained.
"If the federation doesn't approve that she will change her federation, then she cannot change her nationality or her federation," he stressed. "So it needs approval from the federation."
Suzara notes that this process is what kept Filipino-American spiker Kalei Mau from playing in the Philippines in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, as there was no approval from USA Volleyball to change her federation of origin to the Philippines.
This is now being processed by the PNVF, he said. "Once this is approved by the FIVB, she can play now with the national team," Suzara said of Mau, who plays club volleyball for F2 Logistics.
The question is if the PNVF will approve of Santiago's switch of federation, if ever she goes through with the process.
Suzara did not categorically say that they will not agree to the change, but he noted that Philippine volleyball needs Santiago.
"I think Jaja has a future also in Japan, but again, we need Jaja, of course, here in the Philippines, as a Filipina who really brings our flag and honor as a national team player for the Philippines," he said.
Santiago, for her part, has previously said that she asked advice from her family upon receiving her club's offer.
"Sabi ng family ko, sundin mo kung ano 'yung nararamdaman mo. Kung tingin mo na may pag-asa pa talaga 'yung volleyball community natin, volleyball ano natin dito sa Pilipinas, 'di mag-stay ka," she said.
"Pero kung wala talaga, eh grab the opportunity," Santiago added.