The House of Representatives, with 216 lawmakers voted in the affirmative with no opposition and abstention, to approve House Bill 4084 which grants Filipino citizenship to six-foot-11 Andray Blatche—an eight-year National Basketball Association (NBA) veteran who plays starting center for the Brooklyn Nets—on third reading on Monday night. Blatche aims to boost the Smart Gilas Pilipinas lineup for the Spain FIBA World Cup in August.
The 28-year-old Blatche has averaged 9.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game in his eight years in the NBA.
House Bill 4084, authored by Deputy Speaker Robbie Puno of Antipolo City, was approved on third reading just a week after it was approved on second reading.
In his explanatory note, Puno underscored that Congress needs to naturalize at least two players to avoid jeopardizing the entire basketball program in the event of an injury to any one of our naturalized players.
“We need to reinforce its strength so we can be assured of a solid fighting chance in the FIBA World Cup. We can only accomplish this goal by doing what other countries have long done—naturalizing athletes that would prove to be great assets to their teams,” Puno said.
Smart Gilas Pilipinas wants Blatche in its lineup accordance with the FIBA ruling that allows national teams to enlist one naturalized player in their lineup.
For the first time in 35 years, the Philippines will compete in the FIBA Basketball World Cup ticket since it bagged the silver medal in the 27th FIBA Asia Championships held in Manila on August 2013. This came via a gutsy and emotional 86-79 win over longtime nemesis South Korea in the semifinals.
During the FIBA Asia Championships, the Smart Gilas Pilipinas had one naturalized player in its lineup, the six-foot-9 Marcus Douthit.
The Philippines’ second-place finish in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championships made the Philippines one of the 16 top basketball teams in the world.
Other qualifiers in Asia were 2013 FIBA Asia gold medalist Iran and bronze medalist South Korea.
Puno cited that naturalization of foreign players have been good for the Philippines, considering that those who underwent the process brought honor and pride to the country such as: swimmers Akiko Thompson (two time Southeast Asian Games medalist and three-time Olympian) and Christine Jacob Sandejas (bemedalled athlete in the Southeast Asian Games and one-time Olympian).
The deadline for submission on FIBA Basketball World Cup is on July 30.