Gilas Pilipinas Men officially has her man in the middle for the present and the future after President Rodrigo Duterte enacted the Ange Kouame naturalization law.
“I’m great right now. I’m screaming all over the house right now. I’m proud, just proud to be a kababayan,” Kouame told ESPN5.com, clearly delighted with the development.
Pre, Filipino ako! 🇵🇭
– kouameangelo1 (@ kouameangelo1) May 18, 2021
Due to an amendment by SBP Chairman Senator Sonny Angara, Kouame became a Filipino immediately after signing Duterte instead of the usual 15-day grace period after the law was published in a major newspaper.
According to Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP), Kouame still has a number of steps to go before he can officially play for the Philippines. Still, his addition gives a much needed boost to a squad of Gilas cadets preparing for several FIBA tournaments starting in June.
The Ateneo Blue Eagle will now be required to take an oath of allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines administered by the Immigration Bureau. He will then apply for a Philippine passport, which can be obtained within a few days.
“We are confident that he will be able to play during our organization of the FIBA Asian Cup qualifiers and the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Serbia,” said SBP Pres. Al S. Panlilio from the newly naturalized 6 foot 10 inch center.
“While Kouame’s presence is crucial for both of these tournaments, having him as an official team member in upcoming matches is an early investment as we prepare for the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup. grateful for the full support of our basketball community, ”added Panlilio.
The House of Representatives unanimously approved its version of Kouame’s naturalization bill, of Ivorian origin, on February 16, while the Senate followed suit a month later.
“We thank our SBP Chairman, Senator Sonny Angara, as well as Senators Joel Villanueva and Richard Gordon for tabling the bill in the Senate and our Deputy Chairman, Representative Robbie Puno, for drafting the bill at the House of Representatives, ”said Panlilio. “The SBP thanks all of our allies in both chambers whose support has been crucial in pushing this legislation to further strengthen our Gilas Pilipinas Men.”
Senator Angara was the main author of the Senate bill of 1892 on the naturalization of Kouame. The bill is the counterpart of House Bill 8632 tabled by Rep. Puno.
“We thank President Duterte for promulgating the Ange Kouame naturalization bill,” Angara said in a statement. “I, along with the rest of the SBP, are delighted that Kouame officially joins our Gilas Pilipinas as they prepare for the Tokyo Olympics qualifiers, FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers and other tournaments.
“At 6-foot-10, Kouame will certainly strengthen our talented Gilas squad and bring with him the hard work and tenacity that has helped deliver championships for the Ateneo men’s basketball team in the UAAP. And with the likes of With Kai Sotto and Dwight Ramos also pledging to be part of the national team, I am very optimistic about our chances in future international basketball tournaments. “