MANILA – Ateneo center Kakou Ange Franck Williams Kouame has been granted Filipino citizenship through naturalization, Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) president Al Panlilio said on Tuesday.
“The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas is elated to announce that Angelo Kouame’s Filipino naturalization is now official. The SBP extends our appreciation to President Rodrigo Duterte for signing it into law and Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Senator Bong Go for their assistance,” Panlilio said.
He also thanked Senator Sonny Angara, who is also the SBP chairman, and Congressman Robbie Puno, also the SBP vice chairman, for authoring the legislative bills pushing for Kouame’s naturalization.
Panlilio also thanked Senators Joel Villanueva and Dick Gordon for joining Angara in making the Senate bill possible.
“The SBP thanks all our allies in both houses whose support has been crucial in pushing this legislation to further strengthen our Gilas Pilipinas Men,” Panlilio said.
He said Kouame is now working on what is left to be done for FIBA to clear him for Gilas’ upcoming tournaments.
“We are confident that he’ll be able to play during our hosting of the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers and the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Serbia,” Panlilio said.
He said the more important thing, however, is to have Kouame on board for the 2023 FIBA World Cup, which the Philippines will co-host with Indonesia and Japan.
“Although Kouame’s presence is crucial for these two tournaments, having him as an official member of the squad in the upcoming games is an early investment as we build towards the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup,” he said.
He said Kouame’s naturalization is a highlight of “a great day for Philippine basketball.”
“We’re thankful for the full support of our basketball community,” Panlilio added.
President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday signed Republic Act (RA) 11543 granting Philippine citizenship to Kouame.
According to RA 11543, Kouame shall take the Oath of Allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines before a duly authorized officer.
The Oath of Allegiance shall be registered with the Bureau of Immigration (BI), the newly-signed law said.
The BI is directed to issue a certificate for Kouame’s naturalization upon registration of the Oath of Allegiance.
“Mr. Kakou Ange Franck Williams Kouame is hereby granted Philippine citizenship with all the rights, privileges,” and prerogatives, as well as the duties and obligations appurtenant thereto under the Constitution and the laws of the Republic of the Philippines,” the law read.
The signing of RA 11543 came ahead of the Philippines’ hosting of the 2021 International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Asia Cup qualifiers in Clark, Pampanga.
Kouame, a 6’10” center of the Ateneo de Manila University, came to the Philippines in 2016 to try out for the Blue Eagles. He was named University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) Rookie of the Year in 2018.
Last month, FIBA announced that the third window of the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers will be held in Clark, Pampanga from June 16 to 20.
Teams from Groups A, B, and C will play their window matches.
Group A includes the Philippines, Korea, Thailand, and Indonesia, Group B is composed of Chinese Taipei, Japan, Malaysia, and China, and Group C is comprised of Australia, New Zealand, Guam, and Hong Kong. Ivan Stewart Saldajeno and Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos / PNA – northboundasia.com