President Aquino OKs Blatche as Gilas PH mainstay

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Andray Blatche, who is close to being a naturalized Filipino, laughs as he talks to a reporter on the phone during his press conference. Mark Giongco

MANILA, Philippines — He plans to get familiar with the balls used in international competition. He will probably mix a little boxing into his preparation for the Fiba World Cup—that is, if he gets to train with his “cousin,” Manny Pacquiao.

Brooklyn Nets center Andray Blatche can start making plans as a Gilas Pilipinas mainstay. Wednesday, President Aquino signed Republic Act No. 10636 granting Filipino citizenship to the NBA veteran.

“We confirm that the President signed [the bill] granting Filipino citizenship to Mr. Blatche,” Aquino’s spokesman, Edwin Lacierda, told reporters.

Blatche will thus be able to represent the country in the coming Fiba World Cup and the Asian Games. The House of Representatives, led by Antipolo City Rep. Robbie Puno, had earlier approved the application for Filipino citizenship of the 27-year-old Blatche.

“It’s amazing, truly a blessing to be in a position where I am,” Blatche told reporters after watching his first PBA game Tuesday evening. “I have no expectation, I kinda owe it to the people that worked very hard to get me here and to get me to this position.”

Gilas will see action in the world championships for the first time in 36 years with Blatche expected to spearhead the Philippine drive in Seville, Spain, on Aug. 30-Sept. 14.

Blatche, a native of Syracuse, New York, will also play for the Philippine five in the 17th Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, just a week after the worlds.

“I’ll do some workouts like my cousin [Manny] Pacquiao, do a little boxing, running,” said Blatche. “I’ve got some of the [Molten] basketballs. I’ll try to work out on the balls, so I’ll get adjusted to the balls. Blatche left the country at midnight. With a report from Christian Esguerra

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