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Mr. Malasakit welcomes naturalization of Gilas center Ange Kouame

May 20, 2021 - Thursday 3:05 PM by MDM

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Senator Christopher “Bong” Go welcomed the signing of Republic Act No. 11543 which grants Filipino citizenship to athlete Kakou Ange Franck Williams Kouame. The measure was signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday, May 18. 

The Senate Sports Committee Chair praised the Gilas Pilipinas center for successfully adapting to Philippine society and culture while training to become one of the top student-athletes in the country.

“Angelo Kouame set foot in the Philippines in 2016 to try out for the Ateneo Blue Eagles. Despite being an Ivorian native, he withstood the cultural differences and language barrier to prove his worth on the court and learn all about the basics of basketball,” said Go.

Kouame, who hails from the Ivory Coast in West Africa, made his debut to the prestigious University Athletic Association of the Philippines’ men's basketball tournament in the 2018-2019 season under the Ateneo Blue Eagles.

He was the first-ever foreign student-athlete to win the Rookie of the Year award, finishing second in player statistical points and leading in the most number of blocks in a game that season. Most importantly, he helped the Ateneo de Manila men's basketball team win the championship with a 12-2 record.

Earlier that year, the young athlete had also joined the Ateneo Blue Eagles in representing the Philippines in the 2018 William Jones Cup held in New Taipei City, Taiwan. He led the team in rebounds in multiple games and helped the university to a 5-3 record.

Kouame continued to improve in UAAP Season 82, once more finishing second in player statistical points and leading in the most number of blocks in a game that season. He proved crucial in helping his team win all their games, including the regular season and the finals.

“Granting Kouame Philippine citizenship will definitely bolster our country’s chances to victory. His invaluable contribution on both ends of the floor will surely make an impact in several upcoming basketball tournaments, including the 2021 [International Basketball Federation] Asia Cup Qualifiers which will pave the way to claim our rightful place in the international arena of sports,” added Go.

In a statement, Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas President Al Panlilio expressed his gratitude to all the government officials, including Senator Go, who worked together to ensure the swift passage of the bill.

“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,” stated Panlilio.

“We thank our SBP Chairman [Manuel V. Pangilinan], Senator Sonny Angara, along with Senators Joel Villanueva and Richard Gordon, for filing the bill in the Senate and our Vice Chairman, Congressman Robbie Puno, for authoring the bill in the House of Representatives,” he added.

SBP program director Tab Baldwin likewise thanked President Duterte for being supportive of Philippine sports.

“I think we are all pretty confident that the Congress is supporting us. The President also supports basketball and Philippine sports. It’s a big relief, and we’re very happy for Ange [Kouame], happy for the program,” said Baldwin. 

Kouame is expected to represent the country in both the upcoming FIBA Asia Cup and the 2023 FIBA World Cup. He may make his debut in the third and final window of the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers in June in Clark. According to the FIBA Internal Regulations, national basketball teams may field one player who has acquired the legal nationality of the country by naturalization. 

Also on that day, May 18, Go personally witnessed the presentation and signing of the Deed of Donation in Mariveles, Bataan for the construction of the Philippine Sports Training Center in Bagac town.  

During his speech in the event, Go assured his support for sports development, saying, “Ako naman po sa Senado, bilang Committee Chair on Sports, asahan n’yo po ang aking suporta. Bilisan na po natin. Alam n’yo po, ‘pag nagtutulungan ang ating mga atleta at ating gobyerno at private sector ay malayo po ang ating mararating,” said Go, recounting how cooperation between the government and other sectors of society resulted in the Philippines finishing first in the medal tally during the 2019 Southeast Asian Games.

The Senator also announced the approval by President Duterte for the release of P729 million to be used for the construction of facilities and buildings of the National Academy of Sports inside the New Clark City Sports Complex in Capaz, Tarlac. Go principally authored this law establishing the country’s first national sports academy.