Philippine Football Federation (PFF) President Mariano Araneta bemoaned the extended naturalization process for forward Bienvenido Marañon ahead of the Azkals' campaign in June's joint FIFA World Cup and AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers.
Araneta expressed disappointment that despite keeping in step with Gilas Pilipinas naturalization candidate Ange Kouame for majority of the process, the bill that would see the Spanish goal scorer become Filipino has yet to be signed into law.
"We understand the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic in the process which may have stalled Bienve's papers in Congress," expressed Araneta in a statement.
"It is unfortunate that Bienve wasn't able to get his naturalization on the same day as Angelo as both of them went through the process together," lamented the PFF head, referring to President Rodrigo Duterte signing into law Kouame's naturalization on Monday.
On March 15, the Senate unanimously approved the respective bills that would naturalize Marañon and Kouame, a month after the House of Representatives first did so.
Thanks to an amendment by Sen. Sonny Angara, concurrently chairman of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, Kouame became a Filipino immediately after Duterte's signature instead of the customary 15-day grace period after the law's publication in a major newspaper.
On the other hand, Marañon's bill was only concurred by Congress on Tuesday. It is yet to be signed into law by the president.
With the delay, Araneta acknowledged there is a possibility the striker would not feature for the national team in the upcoming qualifiers.
"We were hoping that the urgency of our situation would have made the process of Bienve's naturalization faster," he remarked. "But with the current situation, we are facing the prospect of not having Bienve in the team for the remaining matches, considering the numerous requirements he has to comply with before he can suit up for the country."
The Philippines is set to finish the group stage with matches against Guam, China, and the Maldives from June 3-15. in the lead-up to the qualifiers, they are also set for a training camp in Qatar.
Despite the prospect of not having Marañon in their ranks in China, Araneta is still looking forward to the time the naturalization candidate can officially play for the Azkals.
"We remain patient and hopeful that Bienvenido Marañon can join the national team in the future," he shared.