THE ball is now with the Senate.
Ateneo center Angelo Kouame’s bid to become a naturalized Filipino moved closer to reality after the House of Representatives unanimously approved on third and final reading House Bill No. 8632 granting Filipino citizenship to the Ivory Coast native.
“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,” Deputy Speaker Robbie Puno, who authored the bill, said.
“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,” added Puno, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas vice chairman.
The 6-foot-10 Kouame was a member of the Gilas Pilipinas training pool for the third window of the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers.
The house also unanimously approved on third reading House Bill No. 8631 authored by Manila first district congressman Manny Lopez that will naturalize United City FC’s Spanish striker Bienvenido Marañon with a 206-0-0 vote.
The counterpart Senate Bill 1892 on Kouame’s naturalization was authored by SBP chairman and Sen. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara and was filed in October last year.
Marañon’s naturalization bill in the senate, SB No. 1391, was filed by Sen. Miguel Zubiri in March last year.
Should the Philippines gain a berth, the SBP is eyeing to field in Kouame in the FIBA Asia Cup in August in Indonesia.
President Duterte has the final say on both bills.
Kouame averaged 12.5 points and 11.5 rebounds for the Blue Eagles in 2019 when Ateneo bagged its third straight title via a 16-0 season.
A former Rookie of the Year awardee in 2018, Kouame is still eligible to play for the Eagles for three more years.