ATENEO center Ange Kouame’s bid to become a Filipino citizen that will enable him to suit up for Gilas Pilipinas is now closer to reality.
The House committee on justice approved yesterday House Bill No. 5951 seeking to grant Filipino citizenship to the 6-foot-10 Kouame, a native of Ivory Coast.
The bill, authored by deputy speaker and Antipolo first district Rep. Robbie Puno, was filed last Jan. 20.
“I am thankful that my colleagues in the House of Representatives recognize the potential Mr. Kouame, who gave a stunning performance in the 82nd Season of the UAAP, can bring to our national team as they prepare to compete in the 2023 FIBA World Cup,” said Puno, also the vice chairman of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas.
“He’s just turning 23 before the end of the year, but no one can doubt the immense talent of Mr. Kouame, as shown in the recent 16-0 sweep of the Ateneo Blue Eagles in the recent UAAP season. I am hopeful that he will bring the same level of intensity as a member of Gilas Pilipinas. We just need to provide him with better opportunities to defend the Philippines internationally,” he added.
After getting the nod in the committee level, the bill will now be voted upon in the House.
A counterpart Senate Bill 1892 authored by SBP chairman and Sen. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara was filed last Oct. 22.
President Duterte will have the final say on the naturalization bid of Kouame.
While upbeat on the chances of Kouame’s naturalization, Puno stressed the need to have more naturalized players for Gilas for the 2023 FIBA World Cup the country is co-hosting.
“Gilas Pilipinas is in need of a new breed of players, and I am hopeful that we will be able to include Mr. Kouame to their roster,” he said.
“But of course, we need more like him to ensure not only an exciting start but more importantly a strong finish in the next FIBA World Cup.”
House Bill No. 8016, authored by 1-Pacman Rep. Mikee Romero and 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.
The towering Kouame averaged 12.5 points and 11.5 rebounds for the Blue Eagles in the last UAAP cage wars when Ateneo bagged its third straight title via a 16-0 season.
A former Rookie of the Year awardee in 2018, Kouame is eligible to suit up for the Eagles for three more years.