MANILA, Philippines -- The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) on Sunday confirmed that William Navarro was not given a clearance to play in Korea, as the federation insisted that he must honor his contract in the Philippines.
Navarro was announced as the Asian import of the Seoul Samsung Thunders in the Korean Basketball League (KBL) in July, joining a growing list of Filipinos opting to play abroad rather than in the PBA or other local leagues.
But over the weekend, it was reported that Navarro will not be able to play in the KBL as he was not granted a Letter of Clearance (LOC) by FIBA.
In a statement on Sunday, SBP spokesperson and executive director Sonny Barrios explained the position of the federation.
"The SBP respects players' rights to look for greener pastures. But players also need to respect agreements they have entered into with their teams," he said.
"Recently, the Korea Basketball Association (KBA) requested FIBA for a Letter of Clearance (LOC) for William Raniel Navarro to play for the Samsung Thunders in Korea," he added.
However, Navarro has an existing contract to play for the national team, attend activities, practices, social and business functions. Barrios added that this contract has Navarro's "undeniable agreement" that would only allow him to be assigned to the NorthPort Batang Pier.
NorthPort drafted Navarro in the special round of the 2021 PBA Rookie Draft. He has yet to make an appearance for the Batang Pier; indeed, Navarro has only played 13 games since 2020, all of them for Gilas Pilipinas.
FIBA, the world governing body for basketball, has decided that this contract must be honored by Navarro and thus did not issue a clearance for the player.
"After carefully reviewing the positions of the KBA and the SBP, FIBA issued its decision on September 12, 2022 not to allow Mr. Navarro to join Samsung Thunders," said Barrios. "FIBA upheld that he still has an existing, legally binding contract preventing him from doing so."
"The SBP does not intend to unduly prevent players from furthering their careers with other teams here or overseas. But it is a fundamental and ethical practice for players to honor their existing contracts with their mother teams," Barrios stressed.
"The essence for the need for a Letter of Clearance (LOC) is FIBA's policy of upholding the sanctity of an existing, legally binding contract whenever the issue of Player Transfer comes about so that proper order is maintained among all stakeholders."
Navarro, who played collegiate basketball for Ateneo de Manila University, saw action in the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers and the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in 2021, as well as the FIBA Asia Cup.
He also played in the February and July windows of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.
However, Navarro was not called up to the August window, nor was he included in the projected pool of players that the SBP showed in a recent presentation to the Senate Committee on Sports.
It was in that same meeting that the SBP brought up the issue of "poaching" of local players to lawmakers, with federation president Al Panlilio expressing his concern that the country was losing top talent to leagues in Japan and Korea.
Ten Filipinos will play in Japan's B.League this season. Aside from Navarro, five other players have signed as Asian imports in the KBL.