|Ange Kouame is just the president's approval away from gaining naturalization. Nikki Collantes (file photo)|
MANILA—Ange Kouame and Bienve Marañon are now just one step away from becoming Filipinos.
The Senate approved with finality the Senate bills seeking the naturalization of the foreign athletes.
All the 23 senators voted in favor of passing Senate Bills 8631 for Marañon and 8632 for Kouame in the third and final reading.
The bills will now be transmitted to the Office of the President for President Rodrigo Duterte's final approval.
Once Duterte signs the bill or lets them lapse for 30 days even without his signature, Marañon and Kouame are now eligible to play for the national team for football and basketball, respectively.
Kouame's approval could be timely as he might be available for Gilas Pilipinas in the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers in early June in Angeles, the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament later that month in Belgrade, and possibly the FIBA Asia Cup itself in August in Jakarta.
“Kouame is primed to make a significant contribution to Philippine basketball. He is ready to play for the national team. More importantly, he is more than willing to represent our country,” Senator Sonny Angara, the author of HB 8632, said.
The concurrent Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas chairman is also optimistic about Kouame especially that the national sports association will be fielding in an all-Gilas Cadets lineup for the ACQ and the OQT due to the schedule conflict with the PBA.
“Ange is still very young and his game is still developing. This early we have already seen how good he is playing in the UAAP. He will only improve with his continued training at the hands of our very capable coaching staff and trainers in Gilas Pilipinas,” Angara added.
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