MANILA, Philippines -- Amid the possibility of losing EJ Obiena to another country, the president of the Philippines' athletics federation said they must complete their investigation into the pole vaulter.
Obiena, 26, is locked in a funding row with the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA), which has accused the Tokyo Olympian of falsifying his liquidation documents and failing to pay his coach, Vitaly Petrov.
The pole vaulter has decried the allegations, insisting that he has made full payments to his coach -- an assertion backed by Petrov.
Obiena has admitted to mulling retirement because of the situation, which has dealt a blow to his training.
Both the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) and the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) are now involved in the matter, with the POC's ethics committee set to investigate the complaint that Obiena filed against PATAFA.
Amid the rift between Obiena and PATAFA, the pole vaulter's mentor has revealed that there are other options available to the athlete if no resolution is found.
"Long before this happened, there was already a line of people at his door to offer him a passport," said Jim Lafferty, Obiena's mentor.
"It's no secret in today's world that a number of countries are looking at this situation and laughing uncontrollably how the Philippines is driving away a world-class athlete that they can offer a passport to," he added.
But PATAFA president Philip Ella Juico was non-committal on this issue when asked by former PBA commissioner Noli Eala on "Power and Play" last weekend.
Asked about the possibility of losing Obiena to another country, Juico said: "Look, we want to finish the investigation, okay? We want to finish the investigation, and we take it from there. Matatapos na."
When asked directly by Eala if they still want Obiena in PATAFA, Juico responded: "We can still talk about. As I said, again, let us finish the investigation, so that we will know what are the bounds of our discussions."
Juico, who earlier this month was re-elected as PATAFA president, insisted that bridges between him and Obiena's camp have not been burned. However, he was emphatic in his stance that the federation must complete their probe into the athlete first before any discussion can take place.
"We are mature people, we can always talk, but we have to finish the investigation. 'Yan ang commitment ko sa board, 'yan ang commitment ko sa tao, 'yan ang commitment ko sa PSC, 'yan ang commitment ko sa mga ibang tao diyan na nagnangangawngaw na hindi naman naiintindihan kung ano 'yung mga facts," said Juico.
Obiena, in his first statement made on the issue, had demanded "a full and public withdrawal of investigation" as well as a public apology from PATAFA.
Obiena was the lone Asian to make it to the final of the pole vault in the Tokyo Olympics, where he finished in 11th place. He went on to break the Asian record for the event in Austria last September, and is tipped as the gold medal favorite should he compete for the Philippines in the Southeast Asian Games and Asian Games next year.