PRESIDENT Aquino has signed Andray Blatche’s naturalization papers on Wednesday, clearing the way for the NBA player's stint with the Gilas Pilipinas basketball team in future international tournaments.
National coach Chot Reyes broke the good news as he thanked the President for making the 6-11 Blatche a naturalized Filipino who will now be eligible to play for Gilas beginning in the Fiba World Cup in Spain this August and the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea.
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda later confirmed the development from Malacanang.
"We confirm that the President signed Republic Act 10636 granting Filipino citizenship to Mr. Blatche," he said in a statement released to media outlets.
The President's official act came less than 24 hours after Blatche left for the US following a three-day visit in the country, where he met his new teammates in the national team and vowed to give his all to the Philippine cause.
"I kind of owe it the people that worked very hard to get me in this position,” said the Brooklyn Nets center.
Blatche now becomes the second naturalized player of the national team after Marcus Douthit, who led Gilas to a runner-up finish behind Iran in last year's Fiba-Asia championships in Manila that set the stage for the Philippines' return to the world championships.
Reyes, however, said Blatche will have to fight Douthit for his spot in Gilas since rules of the world governing body for basketball allow a country to use only one naturalized player during Fiba-sanctioned tournaments.