Kouame, Marañon naturalization bills pass House panel

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 5) - The bills seeking the naturalization of Ateneo Blue Eagles center Angelo Kouame and United City FC striker Bienvenido Marañon takes a huge step as the House Justice Committee approved those on Thursday.

Both bills are scheduled to be tackled in the House plenary on Monday, where congressmen are expected to deliberate and pass those in second and third readings.

Deputy Speaker and Antipolo first district Rep. Robbie Puno, the author of House Bill No. 5951 which seeks the naturalization of Kouame, said the Ivorian-born center will help shore up the national team's frontline as the country prepares for a successful campaign in its hosting of the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup.

"Pagalingan ngayon ng pag-naturalize ng players because in the world now, the definition of a national team is, 11 natural-born players and one naturalized player," said Puno, who is also responsible for the naturalization of former national team big men Marcus Douthit and Andray Blatche.

Puno, the vice chairman of national basketball governing body Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, also noted that Kouame has adjusted well in the country since he lived here since 2016.

The 23-year-old Kouame is a two-time UAAP champion with Ateneo and the collegiate league's Rookie of the Year in 2018. The 6'10'' center recently joined Gilas Pilipinas' training bubble in Calamba, Laguna as the national team prepares for the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers third window in Doha, Qatar.

Meanwhile, former Bacolod Rep. Monico Puentevella thanked lawmakers for also considering the Spanish-born Marañon's naturalization as it will be a big step for the country's chances of playing in the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

"Right now in the world, the most popular game is football. Our sport has improved but not that much," said Puentevella, a known supporter of Philippine national sports teams.

Manila 1st District Rep. Manny Lopez authored House Bill No. 7427 which seeks the naturalization of the 34-year-old striker.

Marañon is a four-time Philippines Football League champion with Ceres-Negros FC and United City FC and took home the pro league's Golden Boot award. He is also the all-time leading scorer of the Asian Football Confederation Cup, a prestigious continental club competition.

The naturalization of Kouame and Marañon are also pending at the Senate, authored by Sens. Sonny Angara and Juan Miguel Zubiri, respectively.