Senate approves on final reading naturalization of foreign athletes Kouame and Maranon

Published March 15, 2021, 5:10 PM

by Mario Casayuran

By a 23-0 vote, the Senate on Monday unanimously approved on third and final reading bills seeking the naturalization of two foreign athletes – basketball player Ange Kouame of Ivory Coast and football striker Bienvenido Morejon Marañon of Cadiz, Spain. 

Senators Juan Edgardo ‘’Sonny’’ Angara and Richard J. Angara had assured their colleagues in the 24-member Upper House that the two athletes are sincere in acquiring Philippine citizenship. 

This was the assurance given after Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon that foreigners might just get Philippine citizenship for convenience, in reaction to a disclosure made by Sen Richard Gordon, chairman of the Senate justice and human rights committee chairman, that American basketball player Andray Blatche, naturalized as a Filipino in 2014, had left the country. 

In a statement, Angara sees the addition of Kouame to the Gilas Pilipinas national basketball team as a boost to the Philippines’ chances in qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics. 

Angara, the chairman of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP), is the principal author of Senate Bill 1892 granting Philippine citizenship to Kakou Ange Franck Williams Kouame through naturalization, which was approved on third and final reading today. 

Senate Bill 1892 is the counterpart of House Bill 8632, introduced by SBP vice chairman, Antipolo Representative Robbie Puno. 

Angara thanked his colleagues in the Senate for the support given to Kouame, particularly the committee of Gordon who sponsored and defended the bill in plenary. While waiting for the approval of his naturalization, the 6-foot-10 Ivorian recruit Kouame has already been training with Gilas Pilipinas in preparation for the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifying Windows last November 2020 and February 2021. 

Once the bill is signed by the President, Kouame will officially be a member of Gilas Pilipinas and will provide the national squad with much needed support when it competes in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) in Belgrade, Serbia this coming June 29 to July 4. 

The Philippines has been given another shot to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics after New Zealand decided to pull out of the tournament in Belgrade. According to FIBA, the Philippines was selected to replace New Zealand by virtue of Gilas Pilipinas being the next best team in the Asia-Oceania Region in the FIBA world ranking for men’s basketball. 

Angara echoed the statement made by Gilas Pilipinas head coach Jong Uichico that Kouame is the missing piece for the national squad to move forward, not only because of his height, but his versatility, both as an offensive player and a defensive force in the middle. 

“Kouame is primed to make a significant contribution to Philippine basketball. He is ready to play for the national team.

More importantly, he is more than willing to represent our country,” Angara said. 

“Ange is still very young and his game is still developing. This early we have already seen how good he is playing in the UAAP. He will only improve with his continued training at the hands of our very capable coaching staff and trainers in Gilas Pilipinas,” Angara added. 

Apart from the OQT, Gilas will also compete in the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 qualifiers scheduled for early June in Clark, Pampanga and the August 16 to 28 FIBA Asia Cup 2021 in Jakarta, Indonesia.

 
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