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Philippines back in the ABL map as Mindanao Aguilas set to debut in new season

The Mindanao Aguilas with Manny Pacquiao.
By Ivan Saldajeno

ZAMBOANGA--The Philippines is back in the ABL.

A group led by no less than former world boxing champion and current Mahindra coach Manny Pacquiao announced on Sunday the founding of the Mindanao Aguilas, who will debut in the league's new season starting in October.

"Boss Manny Pacquiao is proud to show the untapped talents and resources from Mindanao, and how beautiful it’s cities are, to the rest of the Philippines and the ASEAN nations,” said Aguilas general manager Bien Orillo.

Head Coach NiƱo Natividad added, “Playing in the ABL gives players from our area an opportunity to showcase their talents. Since Boss Manny is a proven winner, he wants our team not just to participate but also to excel, compete against the best of the South East Asia region, and contend for the championship in our maiden season.”

Zamboanga-based businessmen Mark Chiong and Rolando Navarro joined hands in helping Pacquiao build the team, which will be composed of mostly Mindanao-born players.

“Our mandate is to field the best team possible and to also further develop the sport in Mindanao,” Natividad further said.

Lantaka Hotel general manager Monsi Dela Cruz also extended his support for the new team, the first Philippine team in the said Southeast Asian professional basketball league after the country did not field in a team in 2014.

The Philippines already won two ABL championships through the Philippine Patriots in the inaugural season in 2010 and the San Miguel Beermen three years later.