The House of Representatives on Tuesday, February 16 approved the grant of Filipino citizenship to Ateneo Blue Eagles star Angelo “Ange” Kouame of Ivory Coast and professional footballer Bienvenido “Bienve” Maranon of Spain, who are expected to both suit up for the Philippine team scheduled to compete in forthcoming international sporting events.
The Lower Chamber registered 206 affirmative and zero negative votes for the third and final reading approval of House Bill 8631 proposing to grant Philippine citizenship to Maranon, currently based in Negros Occidental.
On the other hand, HB 8632 was similarly passed on final reading after getting 210 “yes” votes. HB 8632 seeks to naturalize Kouame as Filipino citizen.
“At the age of 23, Kouame is now poised to become the youngest naturalized Gilas player ever, which gives us a good eight to 10 years with him in the national team,” said Deputy Speaker and Antipolo City Rep. Roberto Puno, principal author of HB 8632.
Puno, vice chairman of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) stated: “There is no doubt that his presence will allow Gilas Pilipinas to keep in step with the other national teams, most of whom have their own naturalized players.”
Better known as Ange Kouame, Kakou Ange Franck Williams Kouame became the first ever foreign student-athlete to win the Rookie of the Year in 2018 and was instrumental in the 16-0 sweep of the Ateneo Blue Eagles in the 82nd Season of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines.
The 6-foot-10 center from the Ivory Coast averaged 12.5 points, 11.79 rebounds, and 3.86 blocks in the last UAAP championship.
HB 8631 is a substitute bill that consolidated legislative proposals filed by Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Ferdinand martin Romualdez, together with Reps. Manuel Luis T. Lopez (PDP-Laban, Manila); Yedda Marie K. Romualdez (Tingog Sinirangan Partylist) and Greg G. Gasataya (NPC, Bacolod City).
Authors of HB 8631 said Maranon is well-known as among the most prolific football scorers in Southeast Asia.
A highly-skilled footballer, Maranon moved to the Philippines in 2015 and joined the Ceres Football Club. He played for the Ceres-Negros Team in the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League.
He is reportedly the leading goal scorer of the Philippines Football League and the all-time top scorer in the AFC Cup, scoring his 35th goal during a Ceres-Negros win against Indonesia’s Bali United on March 11, 2020.
“I am fully convinced that Maranong will be an invaluable asset to the national football team – the Azkals – and bring pride and honor to our country, if granted the opportunity to play for the Philippines,” said Lopez.