Press Release
May 26, 2014


The Senate on Monday approved on third and final reading the bill introduced by Senator Juan Edgardo "Sonny" Angara that would confer Philippine citizenship on American professional basketball player Andray Blatche, in effect clearing the way for him to help the Philippine national basketball team that will compete in the FIBA World Championships in Spain this August.

"Blatche is possibly the best center from the NBA that we can get who is willing to shun more lucrative offers now and in the future just to be part of our national team," stressed Angara, who said that the Brooklyn Nets big man's documents will now be transmitted to the Office of the President for the chief executive's signing.

Angara expressed gratitude to his colleagues, particularly Senate Justice Committee Chair Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III and Majority Floor Leader Alan Peter Cayetano for the swift passage of Senate Bill 2108.

"This was indeed a total team effort on the part of the Senate. Credits are due to both the majority and minority blocs for supporting this measure, which to my mind, is the Senate's own way of contributing to the cause of our basketball team," he pointed out, mentioning also Senate President Franklin Drilon, and Senators Tito Sotto and Jinggoy Estrada.

Blatche, who averages 12 points and six rebounds, will also be allowed to backstop the country in other major international basketball tournaments, including the Asian Games that will be held in September this year in South Korea and in the 2016 Summer Olympics.

For accepting to be part of the Philippine basketball squad, Blatche will be forever prohibited to join any other foreign national team.

"Having naturalized players is the rule in international competitions rather than the exception. It's very accepted. We are just taking advantage of the rule," said the neophyte senator, who chairs the committee on games, amusement and sports.

The House of Representatives, through the efforts of Antipolo Rep. Robbie Puno, has approved the application of Blatche last month.

The 6-foot-11 American isn't the first foreign player to be given Philippine citizenship.

Americans Arthur "Chip" Engelland, Jeff Moore and Dennis Still were naturalized in the 1980s to help the Philippine men's basketball team to win the Asian Basketball Confederation (now FIBA Asia Championship) crown in 1985.

Also, another American, Marcus Douthit, who was naturalized in 2011, contributed a lot in bringing back the country to the international basketball map as it helped the squad to qualify for the World Championships by placing second in last year's FIBA Asia tournament, beating Asian powerhouse and RP's perennial nemesis South Korea in the semifinal game.

"We took a leap of faith when we naturalized Marcus Douthit, and that leap of faith paid dividends. We are hoping this would be a similar case with Andray Blatche," Angara said.

The lawmaker also dismissed concerns that having naturalized players would stunt our local players, saying that on the contrary, it would definitely help our local players.

"Since our local players will be playing against bona fide professional NBA players, they will be forced to improve. It's like we're putting them in a competitive atmosphere. Great players make other players even better," he argued.

"This is the first time in 40 years that the Philippine team will play once again in the world basketball tournament. We are number 34 in the world basketball ranking and yet, we made it to the FIBA World Championships, which is the top 24 teams in the world. Given this rare opportunity, we should do everything we can to give our national team the best representation and the best chance to win," Angara added.

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