Good day. Here are the stories for The Manila Times for Saturday, August 20, 2022.

READ: 'Heads will roll' after foiled sugar smuggle

"HEADS will roll" at the Bureau of Customs (BoC) in the aftermath of the foiled smuggling of 7,021 metric tons (MT) of sugar at the Subic Port in Zambales, Malacañang vowed Friday. Citing a report from acting Customs Commissioner Yogi Filemon Ruiz, Press Secretary Rose Beatrix "Trixie" Cruz-Angeles said the smuggling attempt last Thursday was prevented after Customs discovered that the import permit used for the shipment was "recycled." Cruz-Angeles said that heads will roll if it is proven that Customs port personnel connived with smugglers in using the questionable import permits. She also revealed in a statement that at least one of the warehouses that were raided by Customs agents was not registered with the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA).

READ: Customs probe of 'contraband' rice underway

BUREAU of Customs Commissioner Yogi Felimon Ruiz on Friday ordered an investigation of what is believed to be illegally imported rice that arrived at the Port of Iloilo. Ruiz said in a statement the investigation "is ongoing." He also said he was waiting for an official report from the Port of Iloilo customs. Customs is also coordinating with organizations involved in the inspection of shipments, such as the Bureau of Plant Industry, Societe Generale de Surveillance (SGS), the world's leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company; and the Asean Trade in Goods Agreement/Asean Industrial Cooperation Scheme, Ruiz said. He issued the statement in reaction to the banner story of The Manila Times on Friday that about 38,400 metric tons (MT) of rice believed to have been smuggled from Vietnam and worth more than P1 billion were unloaded at the Iloilo port and released by the port's customs authorities. Customs sources told The Times that 10 ships carrying rice from Vietnam arrived at the Iloilo port between August 4th and 14th. Seven of the ships have unloaded their cargo, the source said.

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READ: Senate locked down after 8 members catch Covid

THE entire Senate building has been locked down until Monday after eight senators tested positive for Covid-19. Senate President Juan Miguel "Migz" Zubiri issued the lockdown order to check the spread of the virus. Catching the virus were Senate Majority Leader Emmanuel Joel Villanueva, Senators Alan Peter Cayetano, Maria Imelda Josefa "Imee" Marcos, Cynthia Villar, Mary Grace Poe, Joseph Victor "JV" Ejercito, Francis "Chiz" Escudero and Maria Lourdes "Nancy" Binay. The latest to be infected were Ejercito, Villanueva and Binay. In a text message to reporters, Ejercito said his RT-PCR test was positive. Villanueva said he, too, tested positive and sent a copy of his medical certificate to the Senate media Viber group. Binay said she was going into self-isolation after being tested positive for Covid.

READ: DepEd short of enrollment target days before school opens

THREE days before classes open on Monday, the Department of Education (DepEd) is still short of its enrollment target for this school year. The DepEd expects almost 28.6 million students to enroll for the first face-to-face classes in two years. But as of Friday, only 27 million had registered, DepEd spokesman Michael Poa said. There was no decision to extend the enrollment period, Poa said since the trend is that the number of enrollees dramatically increases on the first day of school. He said 23 million learners registered during the regular enrollment period that started last July 25, and 4 million during early enrollment from March 25 to April 30. DepEd has announced that 29,700 schools, or half of the national total, will implement a blended learning system, a mix of in-person and distance learning. The rest will adopt the five-day in-person learning scheme.

READ: 2 more monkeypox cases detected - DoH

The Philippines has detected two more cases of monkeypox, according to the Department of Health (DoH). Health Officer in Charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said the two cases were a 34-year-old and a 29-year-old individual who had recent travel history to countries with confirmed cases. Both reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests of the two samples emerged as positive and were only released on Friday. They are now isolated, according to Vergeire, with the 34-year-old undergoing home isolation and the 29-year-old isolated in a health facility. Vergeire said that tracing is now ongoing for the 34-year-old case, while the 29-year-old case has identified 17 close contacts and their details are now being verified. She added that the two cases are not related to the first monkeypox case detected in the country, which has already been declared as recovered and discharged on August 6.

READ: SC upholds Okada as CEO, chairman

THE Supreme Court has upheld the validity of the status quo ante order (SQAO) it issued last April 27, 2022 reinstating Japanese gaming tycoon Kazuo Okada as chief executive officer and chairman of Okada Manila. This legal development came even as the ousted board of Tiger Resorts Leisure and Entertainment Inc. (TRLEI) filed a motion for reconsideration questioning the validity of the SQAO. TRLEI is the operator of Okada Manila located at the Entertainment City in Parañaque.

BUSINESS: Further hikes in BSP rates to back peso

Over to business, an economist has forecast further hikes in the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas' (BSP) key policy rates even with the 50-basis-point increase on Thursday, citing the need to address interest rate differentials with the Federal Reserve (Fed). Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. chief economist Michael Ricafort, in a report dated August 18, said the latest increase in the BSP's key rates is a preemptive move as the Federal Open Market Committee is projected to hike the Fed's key rates by 50 basis points to 75 basis points during its meeting on September 21.

SPORTS: Chery Tiggo enters rebuilding phase

Topping sports, after struggling in the Open and Invitational Conferences of the Premier Volleyball League (PVL) 2022 season, the Chery Tiggo Crossovers are set for a major roster revamp. The Crossovers' intention for a makeover explained the release of their seven players: Maika Ortiz, Rachel Austero, Joy Dacoron, Justine Dorog, Julia Angeles, Ariane Layug and Elaine Kasilag. They were all part of the Chery Tiggo squad that ruled the first-ever PVL professional conference (Open) last year in Ilocos Norte. From being on top, the Crossovers fell at the bottom, finishing eighth in this year's Open and Invitational Conferences.

READ: Opinion and editorial

Antonio Contreras, Yen Makabenta, and Danton Remoto are today's front page columnists. Contreras discusses political partisanship in the academe, Makabenta looks back at the "Green" Revolution, while Remoto believes writing well is the best revenge.

Today's editorial calls for an improvement and expansion of the no-contact apprehension policy. Read a full version on the paper's opinion section or listen to the Voice of the Times.

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On behalf of The Manila Times, this is Aric John Sy Cua reporting. Have a safe weekend ahead.