Kouame’s naturalization bid gets big boost


    ATENEO center Ange Kouame’s bid to become a naturalized Filipino citizen that will enable him to play for Gilas Pilipinas got a big boost.

    House Bill No. 8632 seeking to grant Filipino citizenship to Kouame, a native of Ivory Coast, passed the second reading in the House of Representatives last Tuesday, according to the bill’s principal author, Deputy Speaker Robbie Puno of the 1st district of Antipolo.

    “I thank my colleagues for the swift approval on second reading of House Bill No. 8632, and I anticipate its quick passage on third and final reading shortly,” Puno, who is also the vice chairman of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, said in a statement.

    “We can say we are definitely much closer to naturalizing yet another star athlete for our national team,” he added.

    The 6-foot-10 Kouame is part of the national team training pool toughening up at the Inspire Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna for the third window of the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers set on Feb. 18 to 22 in Doha.

    SBP president Al Panlilio said the federation is eyeing to field Kouame in the FIBA Asia Cup in August in Indonesia should the nationals gain a coveted berth.

    Puno said he is hoping Kouame will be able to suit up for Gilas in the FIBA World Cup the country is co-hosting in 2023.

    “I am hopeful that Ange Kouame will become a Philippine citizen just in time for the upcoming FIBA Asia Cup as well as the 2023 FIBA World Cup,” Puno said.

    The counterpart Senate Bill 1892 authored by SBP chairman and Sen. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara was filed in October last year.

    House Bill No. 8016, authored by 1-Pacman Rep. Mikee Romero as well as Congressmen Enrico Pineda, Eric Aristotle Aumentado, and Scott Davies Lanete, was filed in 2018 seeking to grant Filipino citizenship to Ginebra do-it-all import Justin Brownlee.

    Kouame averaged 12.5 points and 11.5 rebounds for the Blue Eagles in 2019.

    Ateneo bagged its third straight crown 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.