MANILA, Philippines -- The measure that seeks to grant Philippine citizenship to Ateneo de Manila University center Ange Kouame hurdled its second reading on Tuesday.
This brings House Bill No. 8632 one step closer towards getting a nod from the House of Representatives, according to its principal author, Deputy Speaker Roberto V. Puno.
"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," said Puno, who is also the vice-chairman of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP).
"We can say we are definitely much closer to naturalizing yet another star athlete for our national team," he added. "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."
Kouame has played for the Blue Eagles for two seasons, helping them sweep the UAAP Season 82 men's basketball tournament in 2019. He won Rookie of the Year honors in 2018.
In Season 82, he averaged averaged 12.5 points, 11.79 rebounds, and a league-leading 3.86 blocks per game while shooting 53.7% from the field.
The center, who hails from Ivory Coast, is currently at the Inspire Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna, where he is training with the rest of the Philippine national team pool ahead of the third and final window of the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 qualifiers.
While it is unlikely that Kouame will be naturalized in time for the February 18-22 window, Puno and the SBP are optimistic that he will be granted Philippine citizenship in time for the FIBA Asia Cup in August.
Kouame would follow in the footsteps of Marcus Douthit and Andray Blatche as naturalized players for the Philippines.