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PBA PARTY-LIST: LET EJ OBIENA DEFEND TITLE IN SEAG

With the Southeast Asian Games in Vietnam looming, the Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta (PBA) Party-list on Wednesday urged the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) to reinstate pole vaulter EJ Obiena to the national training pool for the athlete to be able to defend his title in the regional meet.

“It would be a shame if EJ Obiena would not be given the opportunity to defend his title in the SEA Games. We, of course, want the Philippines to retain the gold medal in the pole vault in the SEA Games and I am sure that’s what PATAFA wants as well,” PBA Party-list spokesperson Atty. Migs Nograles said.

Nograles stressed Obiena has a good chance of retaining his SEA Games title with the pole vault star bagging his second gold for the year after topping the 2022 Orlen Copernicus Cup in Poland Wednesday.

“And seeing as both parties have already committed to enter mediation, reinstating EJ back into the national training pool would be a gesture of good faith on the part of PATAFA,” she added.

Nograles stressed Obiena has a good chance of retaining his SEA Games title with the pole vault star bagging his second gold for the year after topping the 2022 Orlen Copernicus Cup in Poland Wednesday.

“We congratulate EJ for winning gold in the Copernicus Cup and we look forward to seeing him in action in the SEA Games,” the Davaoeña lawyer said.

“We are glad that EJ has not let the distractions of the past several months keep him from achieving his goals. Magsilbi sanang inspirasyon ang kanyang husay at dedikasyon sa iba pa nating mga atleta na naghahangad ng ginto sa kanilang mga larangan,” she added.

The Copernicus Cup is one of the seven meets of the World Athletics Indoor Tour Gold this year.

Obiena matched his season-best after clearing 5.81m in three attempts. Belgium’s Ben Broeders bagged silver, while Olympic gold medalist Thiago Braz of Brazil settled for bronze.

PATAFA chief Phillip Juico earlier confirmed that Obiena, the current Asian record holder, was not included in the from the master list of athletes the athletics association forwarded to the Philippine Sports Commission.

Obiena needs PATAFA’s approval in order to see action in the SEA Games. Without the blessings of his mother association, it would be an uphill climb for Obiena to participate in events sanctioned by World Athletics, which recognizes PATAFA as the nation’s governing body of the sport.

“It would be foolish to sideline your best performing athlete – and the defending champion at that – for something that could be resolved amicably.”

At the urging of senators, both PATAFA and Obiena had earlier agreed to enter mediation to be facilitated by the PSC.

House Deputy Speaker and PATAFA chair Rufus Rodriguez has also stressed that the Tokyo Olympian wasn’t expelled from the track and field association.

“It would be foolish to sideline your best performing athlete – and the defending champion at that – for something that could be resolved amicably. We hope that cooler heads and humility will prevail on both sides so this issue can finally be put to rest,” Nograles said.

Juico and PATAFA have accused Obiena of not paying his Ukranian coach Vitaliy Petrov of his salary on time and ordered the athlete to return some 85,000 euros (over P5 million) back to the PATAFA. Petrov, however, has said he has already been paid in full by Obiena.

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