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Basilan Steel owner calls for refund of MPBL bubble expenses

The Steel, once reluctant, entered the bubble "in good faith" according to their team owner only to have their match forfeited. MPBL (file photo)
By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA—The owner of the Basilan Steel has called on MPBL commissioner Kenneth Duremdes to give his team a refund of all their expenses to enter the league's playoff bubble in the Subic Bay area.

"We are demanding the costs of our campaign back," Hegem Furigay said in an open letter to Duremdes on Thursday night.

The team owner even added, "We were led on, cheated, and made fools of."

Furigay then confirmed a Tiebreaker Times report two weeks ago that the Steel were facing financial concerns ahead of the bubble.

"When the MPBL approached us about joining the bubble, we were hesitant to join because of the logistics, manpower, and the resources needed to successfully finish our campaign," he further said.

Last week, Duremdes said in the Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum that the MPBL did everything to assure Basilan's participation in the bubble.

But Furigay claimed that they were threatened to be kicked out of the league if they beg off.

"The MPBL management forced our hand with the threat of the forfeiture of our franchise," he continued. "And so we re-signed all of our players and staff with agreements so that the ones who will be joining the bubble will have the sense of security that we all want."

The Steel were to face the Davao Occidental Tigers in the rubber match of the South Division Finals as early as last week.

But the match was first postponed after two Basilan players tested positive for COVID-19, who were eventually declared out for the game.

Duremdes said on Saturday that the game would only push through if all the remaining players and staff will be tested negative in the retest the following Monday.

On Tuesday, however, he announced that four more Steel members tested positive as well, and the game was declared a Basilan forfeiture, handing Davao Occidental the South title outright.

[Related Story: Davao Occidental takes MPBL South as 4 more Basilan players test positive for COVID-19]

"We invested heavily in our campaign to win it all, but this incident unjustly took that chance away from us, not even letting my people step on the court for one single time," Furigay added.

He continued, "The unjust way that me and my people were treated reflects badly on the leadership skills of this organization's founder, Senator Emmanuel Pacquiao, who was supposed to be the champion of the people and our country's beloved athletes."

A source claimed that the ruling was not what was initially agreed upon.

According to what the insider told Dugout Philippines, all the players tested negative for COVID-19 would be allowed to play at first, but Duremdes pulled the plug on the initial rule, eventually leading to the brewing friction between the Steel and the MPBL.

The source then said that even Basilan governor Mujiv Hataman was furious upon learning about the Steel's forfeiture.

In a pre-recorded address on Wednesday prior to Game 1 of the MPBL Finals between the Tigers and the Knights, Duremdes said that while everyone is eager to play again, the league does not want the health of all the people inside the bubble compromised by COVID-19.

“Ang concern ng liga is yung paglalaro, but again, ang pinakaimportante dito—ang pinaka-concern ng lahat—ay yung health risk na naidudulot ng COVID na ito. Doble ingat po tayo at lahat naman ng decisions ng liga are guided by DOH guidelines,” the commissioner stated, which somehow explains why the forfeiture was enforced.

On the other hand, Furigay called on Duremdes to show them "good faith" as the Steel are set to leave Olongapo.

"We entered this bubble in good faith. Show us good faith on our way out," Furigay concluded.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno

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