House panel approves bills granting Filipino citizenship to Kouame, Marañon

MANILA, Phillippines — The House Committee on Justice on Thursday granted Ateneo Blue Eagles' Angelo Kouame, and United City FC's Bienvenido Marañon Filipino citizenship, a step required for their eligibility to play in the national team.

House Bill No. 5951 filed by Deputy Speaker Roberto Puno, and a substitute bill to consolidate three House bills seeking to naturalize Marañon were approved and will move to be tackled before the House plenary beginning Monday.

The committee's decision to move their naturalization process forward is key to widening the pool of talent for both Gilas Pilipinas, and the Philippine Azkals, who are both seeking to amp up competitiveness in the global stage.

"Pagalingan ngayon ng pag-naturalize ng players because in the world now, the definition of a national team is, 11 natural-born player and one naturalized player," said Puno, who is a vice-chairman of Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, about the efforts to naturalize players like Kouame, and to an extent, Marañon.

Both athletes were able to speak to the lawmakers in their session Thursday, expressing their gratitude with the development.

"Maraming salamat po," said Ivorian center Kouame.

"I hope to work with Azkals as a Filipino. I would like my dream to come true," said Marañon. Kouame was a key cog in the Ateneo Blue Eagles' 16-0 sweep to the crown in the UAAP Season 82 men's basketball tournament.

Marañon, for his part, is the AFC Cup's all-time top scorer and is a star of Philippines Football League powerhouse United City FC.

Originally published by Philippine Star

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