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ITF intrusion towards PHILTA rebuild ought to bring light on PH tennis patrons

By Kristoffer Bellen

MANILA--Following a series of troublesome issues within the Philippine Tennis Association (PHILTA) and its officials, the sport’s world-governing body, the International Tennis Federation (ITF), sent a letter last week directing the country’s central institution for tennis to restructure the association and address its internal issues in line with the withdrawal of its top sponsors. 

ITF President David Haggerty took the initiative of intervening with the current issue within the PHILTA as he expressed the federation’s disappointments towards the Philippines’ primary tennis association that subverted the sport’s status in the country including the development of its future stars and players.

With the directive sent towards the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC), the ITF demanded the PHILTA to submit several reports regarding its accomplishments for the last two to three years such as the number of tournaments organized, number of coaching training sessions, number of training camps, and list of international competitions that the Philippines participated in, on or before a pre-determined deadline on Nov. 15.

Moreover, the ITF is also demanding the PHILTA to submit a list of its current members, qualifications and criteria for membership and a clear plan of action for how PHILTA intends to make changes to expand the representation of its membership as the latter experienced two contentious elections in the first half of this year that led to the withdrawal of its top backers which include the Cebuana Lhuilllier and Palawan Pawnshop.

Cebuana Lhuillier president and chief executive officer (CEO) Jean Henri Lhuillier and Palawan Pawnshop counterpart Bobby Castro took a big step in pulling out as PHILTA’s age-group tournaments’ sponsors after years of backing up the association when a controversial election for the union’s presidency warred to a fallout earlier this year.

It can be recalled that Lhuillier and Castro officially withdrew from the PHILTA’s auspices after citing that they “can no longer give support to an association that is mismanaged by two people” as a divisive voting in February of this year made Salvador “Buddy” Andrada retain the leadership that he held since July 2016 when ParaƱaque City mayor Edwin Olivarez resigned for public service duties.

The speedy elections, which surprisingly turned out as unsanctioned by the ITF and the POC, also saw former PHILTA secretary-general Romeo Magat being elected as vice president by a seven-man board.

“We feel that PHILTA, under the leadership of Mr. Andrada and Mr. Magat have been grossly remiss in its mission of advancing the sport of tennis in the Philippines. We believe that for Philippine Tennis to advance, we need fresh ideas and new leadership,” Castro said before.

To address the issue, the PHILTA called for a re-election in June but, nevertheless, once again failed to gain support from ITF and PTC, with Lhuillier and Castro also questioning the legitimacy of the results where Atty. Antonio Cablitas was hailed winner for presidency.

ITF supports Lhuillier and Castro’s appeal as its letter also announced its non-recognition to Cablitas as PHILTA president and still considering Olivarez as the head of the association after making a call for the troubled organization to clean up their act and avoid facing possible consequences by amending its Constitution and By-Laws before any new elections can take place. Non-compliance to this could lead the association in suspension, pursuant to the ITF By-law 7 of the ITF constitution.

“We are happy that the ITF has finally stepped in on this matter that has divided not only the leadership of the tennis association but also the hopes and dreams of our future tennis stars,” PHILTA board member Randy Villanueva, who alongside with Lhuillier and former president Junito Villanueva, and Gerard Maronilla walked out in the February elections, said.

On the other hand, although the Cebuana Lhuillier and Palawan Pawnshop have already withdrawn with the PHILTA calendar, they still remain in supporting and endorsing the growth of tennis in the country as they stated that they will be having their own innovative age-group tournaments with its own “unified ranking system.”

“I am here to help our Filipino tennis players and the rest of the stakeholders so we are moving on with programs such as the formation of the junior national teams, which we think will be beneficial to the development of tennis in the Philippines,” said Lhuillier who served as the team manager of the Philippine national team at the Asia-Oceania Davis Cup and the Manila Mavericks at the International Premier Tennis League.

“We will ensure that the growth of tennis in the Philippines will be continuous even with the pending issues of PHILTA,” he added.

Among other sponsors who followed suit with the Cebuana Lhuillier and Palawan Pawnshop’s taking out off the PHILTA events were Dunlop, Toby’s Sports, and Babolat, who all contended that the majority of the tennis tournaments across the country are mostly funded by its private patrons in response to a report submitted by PHILTA.

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