NLEX still unsure of joining PBA
MANILA, Philippines — How competitive NLEX will be in the PBA is the question business tycoon Manny V. Pangilinan wants a clear answer from the six-time PBA D-League champion when it decides this week whether to pursue its plan to join the pro league.
“People inside NLEX and a lot of my colleagues say it’s about time for NLEX to graduate to the PBA,” said Pangilinan, chair of Metro Pacific Investments Corp., which has a stake in the company that operates the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), Tuesday.
“[But the] question we’ll ask of them: Will we have a competitive team? Bear in mind that it takes a while to build a competitive team, because we know we won’t be champions on Day 1, especially in the PBA.”
Pangilinan, who watched at ringside Monday when the Road Warriors completed a perfect 13-0 run to clinch the D-League Foundation Cup title, said the team’s top management has yet to come up with a final decision.
NLEX, though, needs to decide by Saturday, the deadline extension the PBA has given the team to pay the P100-million franchise fee. “It’s a significant commitment,” said Pangilinan. “We’ll meet before the seventh [of June]. It’s got to be socialized internally and with the board of NLEX.”
A source privy to the NLEX decision told the Inquirer in a previous report that the company is having second thoughts after the Road Warriors, along with expansion teams Blackwater Sports and Kia, got unappealing concessions from the PBA.
NLEX had requested the PBA for a direct-hire deal that will allow the Road Warriors to elevate some of their amateur stars.
Instead, the PBA gave the three expansion teams the last three picks in the first round and the first three selections in the second round of the Rookie Draft.
There will also be an expansion draft, which will pool the unprotected players and undrafted rookies.
“If anything, we learned a lesson as Mobiline, where my first exposure was in 1999 when we invested in PLDT,” said Pangilinan. “It took a while, a number of years before Mobiline/Talk ’N Text became champions.”
Pangilinan said staying in the D-League remains an option, so NLEX coach Boyet Fernandez said he is focused on keeping the Road Warriors’ champion form.
“We’ll maintain the core of the San Beda players,” said Fernandez. “It really helps the players improve their game. I don’t know what will happen in the boardroom, but my focus is on the team.”