Jaja Santiago out for PH nat'l team, says de Brito

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 29 2023 03:47 PM

Jaja Santiago is in the process of acquiring Japanese citizenship. PVL Media.
Jaja Santiago is in the process of acquiring Japanese citizenship. PVL Media.

MANILA, Philippines -- Star middle blocker Jaja Santiago will not be available for the Philippine national team in its coming competitions, as she is in the process of acquiring her Japanese citizenship.

This, according to national team coach Jorge Edson Souza de Brito who essentially ruled out Santiago's participation in the 32nd Southeast Asian Games in Cambodia this May.

"I don't think so, because she has started the process for [Japanese] citizenship," de Brito said at the sidelines of the press conference for the Premier Volleyball League All-Filipino Conference on Saturday.

"Bad for us, good for them. Good for her also," the Brazilian mentor added. "I'm always hoping that she can be happy. As you know, she's a good player."

Santiago, 27, has been playing in Japan's V.League for the Saitama Ageo Medics since 2018. Last August, she revealed that she is engaged to Japanese coach Taka Minowa. 

In a recent Instagram post, Minowa shared a clip of Santiago addressing fans in Japanese, expressing his pride at her improvement in learning the language.

Once she acquires her Japanese citizenship, Santiago will need a Japanese passport as well as an agreement between the Philippine National Volleyball Federation (PNVF) and the Japanese Volleyball Association (JVA) to formalize her switch in federations.

The middle blocker will also have to undergo a two-year residency period as required by the FIVB. De Brito believes that as Santiago is already in the process of acquiring her Japanese citizenship, this will prevent her from suiting up for the Philippines in the SEA Games.

"I don’t think she can play for our national team. When she finishes the process there in Japan, she can play for the national team for Japan," he said. "For the last competition she cannot join because there are some rules there that she has to follow."

The PNVF has yet to respond to a request for comment from ABS-CBN News.

Santiago last played in the Philippines in the 2021 PVL Open Conference, where she led the Chery Tiggo Crossovers to the championship. She played for the national team in the 31st Southeast Asian Games in Hanoi, Vietnam, where they finished out of the podium.

It was in April 2021 that Santiago revealed that her club, Saitama Ageo Medics, is willing to facilitate her naturalization which will allow her to play as a local in the V.League.

In the meantime, the national team is already starting its preparation for the SEA Games, with de Brito having called up a roster of 16 players.