My Take on the UAAP’s Move to Ban Imports

A couple of nights ago, I guested on ANC’s Hardball to talk about the UAAP’s controversial move to put a cap on imports for the next season and to eventually implement a total ban on imports in the near future. 

Based on details of the new motion, the eight UAAP teams may no longer recruit imports and they can only play imports who are currently in their teams or training pools. This means that after five years, we will no longer see any foreign student-athletes in ANY SPORT in the UAAP.

No more imports in the UAAP? Aye or Nay?

On the surface, it seems like a great idea. The press release, after all, is that zeroing out imports will lead to more slots, more playing time, more exposure, and more improvement for local players. The first three are logical, sure, but the last one isn’t a certainty. Heck, I believe our local talents’ rate of improvement will actually slow down if, indeed, having imports is phased out.

To get a better grasp of this idea, please watch the following clip from the November 26, 2014 episode of Hardball (hosted by Boyet Sison and Boom Gonzales:

It’s pretty obvious that there wasn’t enough time in the segment to discuss the issue more deeply, so I’ll fire off a few more bullets here.

Banning imports will…

1- Lower the league’s level of play
Imagine this — “Gagaling tayo kahit tayu-tayo lang ang maglalaro. Bawal dayo.” It’s counterintuitive and counterproductive. One of the reasons people improve at their craft is if they’re constantly pushed a little beyond their perceived limits, and in the context of sports, the best way to do that is to play against opponents with more size, more athleticism, and more skill. Translation? We severely limit the potential growth of our local talents if we ban imports from playing at the collegiate level.

2- Propagate a “Threatened not challenged” mindset
Generally speaking, we love it when fellow Pinoys taste success beyond our shores. We protest to the high heavens when our brethren are denied jobs just because of their race, just because they’re not locals. We claim that meritocracy should rule the day, not protectionism, but this is the exact opposite of the kind of mindset propelling this new UAAP motion. Strangely enough, here at home, we feel threatened when foreigners take one or two slots in a team. The ideal, though, is that we should feel challenged, not threatened. We should challenge ourselves and prove that we can stand toe-to-toe with imports. If these imports (or anyone for that matter — local or foreign) make the grade, then let it be because of merit and nothing else. 

3- Skirt the more pressing issues
More Pressing Issue #1 is unregulated recruitment. Let’s not kid ourselves. Complimentary condo units? Six-figure allowances? Guaranteed jobs for relatives? We’ve all heard the stories, right? I’m not outright saying that these are wrong, but that’s simply because there aren’t any rules with which we can work. Who’s to say offering a condo violates any rule when there are no rules in the first place? Should there even be rules? My answer is YES. Collegiate leagues should regulate recruitment because making offers that are way above and beyond educational scholarships and student-level allowances tend to make cutting corners as a student-athlete a lot easier. After all, why should a student-athlete who already has all the fruits of being a professional (e.g. a residence, a car, regular income) continue studying in school? The intrinsic motivation to finish school and earn a degree is diminished to a great degree. For the record, I’m not against student-athletes earning income from, say, endorsements, but getting them straight from schools (or their boosters) is another thing altogether. 

More Pressing Issue #2 is monitoring whether these student-athletes really do fulfill their dual roles. Of all the UAAP & NCAA players who’ve finished their playing eligibility and moved on to pro or semi-pro careers, how many have actually been able to finish their courses and earn their degrees? I don’t have hard figures, but I know for a fact that not all those who’ve finished their playing years actually possess college/university degrees. How many student-athletes have failed classes or missed them entirely? How many have withdrawn from their schools or missed playing years for academic reasons? Isn’t this something that should be monitored more closely by the UAAP instead of worrying about imports?

Another aspect of this complicated issue is this — what about players who grew up in the Philippines or finished high school here, but who carry foreign passports/citizenship? Recent examples are Marko Batricevic, Ferdinand, Kirk Long, Vince Burke, and Moriah Gingerich. Will they be banned, too? Will they be classified differently? 

There is, in fact, one blue-chip high school player (he’s currently in Grade 11) who’s being eyed by a good number of schools, but he might not be able to get any slot in the Seniors division if this “ban imports” policy is fully implemented. This is a kid who played in the Milo SBP and Passerelle tournaments. He played in all mainstream age level basketball competitions and was even eyed for the national youth team, but he was dropped because, again, he doesn’t carry a Filipino passport. And it’s not as easy as his becoming a dual-citizen because, well, he can’t. In this player’s case, he has to give up his foreign citizenship to become a Filipino. Will there be special provisions for cases like his?

As you can see, this issue has over-arching consequences and is complicated in so many ways. I, for one, hope the UAAP just caps imports at one per team and then focuses on the issues raised in bullet point #3. 

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4 Comment

Very well said. Kaisa mo ako dito.


Tama yun para mabigyan yung iba n makapaglaro.


I don't buy it... For every import that comes into a team, the rest of the locals (14 local players) from each team will eventually have to give way, take a step back. Star players will become wing men. This does not count those who did not qualify to the rosters. This does not count the growing kids who will lose their aspirations. If we want to uplift level of play, lets bring them teams abroad in foreign competitions like what they do now off season. . Thank God for guys like Junmar F. Idelfonso, and Japhet Aguilar to give inspiration to the Marlon Aquino jrs., Isaac Go, Gotladera, etc.


By the way reason 2 and 3, is unrelated, and a non-result of the issue of banning imports.