Good day. Here are the stories for The Manila Times for Tuesday, August 23, 2022.

READ: Price of refined sugar down at P70 per kilo

The price of refined sugar in supermarkets has been lowered to P70 from P110, days after big supermarket chains committed to bring down the cost of the sweetener, reports reaching Malacañang on Monday said. President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. hailed the "selfless response" of the owners of supermarkets and groceries. The President last week met with the owners of Robinsons Supermarket, SM Supermarket and Puregold Supermarket where they all agreed to the suggested retail price of P70 per kilo of sugar. They further committed to unload one million kilos of sugar in their respective supermarkets which they implemented yesterday. To ensure that consumers can avail of the cheap sugar, Marcos directed the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to monitor participating retailers' compliance to the agreed purchase limit of one kilo per consumer.

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READ: DA exec admits salt shortage

THE government has yet to fully address concerns on the supply of sugar, but an official of the Department of Agriculture admitted that salt is also in short supply. Senior Undersecretary Domingo Panganiban on Monday said that there is a shortage in the supply of salt as this sector has been neglected for 15 years. He said that the production of salt in the country has deteriorated. The former Agriculture secretary said that because of the shortage, the government had to import salt.

READ: Covid cases in Metro Manila dropping

COVID-19 cases in the National Capital Region (NCR) were 15 percent lower than the previous week's figure, independent monitoring group OCTA Research reported on Monday. OCTA fellow Guido David said the one-week growth rate of Covid-19 cases in the National Capital Region "was -15 percent as of August 21 compared with -1 percent as of August 14." The region's reproduction number — the number of people that each Covid patient can infect — also dropped to 1.03 as of August 18, lower than the 1.11 on August 11. The current 7-day case average is 1055. The positivity rate went down to 14.6 percent as of August 20 from 16.3 percent on August 13. David said Metro Manila is still classified as moderate risk, but the 2-week decline is "very encouraging."

READ: Storm dampens school opening

AN approaching storm forced at least 800 schools mostly in Northern Luzon to call off classes on school opening day on Monday. Classes in other parts of the country proceeded as scheduled, and the Philippine National Police (PNP) reported the day went without incident. Storm "Florita" was forecast by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) to cross the northern tip of Northern Luzon Monday night with maximum winds of 75 kilometers per hour (kph) near the center and gusts of up to 90 kph. Department of Education (DepEd) spokesman Michael Poa on Monday said 734 public and 73 private schools in Tuguegarao and Cagayan suspended pre-school and elementary classes after storm Signal No. 2 was raised in those provinces. Some schools in Aurora and in the Bicol Region also called off classes.

READ: LTFRB to MMDA: Suspend no contact apprehension policy

THE Department of Transportation (DoTr) through the Land Transportation Franchising and and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) urged the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) to suspend for 30 days the no contact apprehension policy (NCAP) for public utility vehicles (PUVs) that were allowed to travel in 133 pre-pandemic routes in Metro Manila. These routes were recently reopened in time for the opening of classes on Monday.

READ: P5.2T 2023 budget proposal reaches House

THE Department of Budget and Management on Monday turned over the 2023 National Expenditure Program or the proposed P5.268 trillion budget to the House of Representatives. Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman handed the budget proposal to House Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez. Romualdez said the House plans to finish budget deliberations before October 1.

BUSINESS: Most PH banks record excellent performance

Topping business, CreditSights, an independent credit analyst and strategist, said that most Philippine banks had an excellent first-half performance, with profitability "back at or nearing pre-pandemic levels." In a statement, CreditSights noted that most banks sustained the reopening of the economy after providing a conducive backdrop for fee income and loan growth and sharply reduced credit costs. The credit analyst updated the status of seven Philippine banks — BDO Unibank (BDO), Bank of Philippine Islands (BPI), Metrobank (MBT), Philippine National Bank (PNB), Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC), UnionBank of the Philippines (UBP), Security Bank (SECB) — after reviewing the operating performance and credit views. CreditSights said they classified BDO, BPI, MBT and SECB from "underperforming" to "market performing" banks.

SPORTS: Clarkson leads 13-man Gilas pool

Over to sports, Filipino American Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson leads the 13-man pool headed to Lebanon for the first game of Gilas Pilipinas in the fourth window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers. As Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas spokesman Renauld "Sonny" Barrios previously stated, Clarkson is set to play as a naturalized player for the Philippines as the country's basketball federation has already stopped pleading FIBA to allow Clarkson to play as a local. That is more likely because the 30-year-old Clarkson, who won the 2021 NBA Sixth Man of the Year award, has not secured a Philippine passport before turning 16 years old. Joining Clarkson in Lebanon are first-time Gilas pool members Roosevelt Adams, Jamie Malonzo, Japeth Aguilar, Chris Newsome, Calvin Oftana, Bobby Ray Parks Jr., Dwight Ramos, brothers Kiefer and Thirdy Ravena, Kai Sotto, Carl Tamayo and Scottie Thompson. The final 12-man lineup for Gilas' game against Lebanon on August 26 at 2 a.m (Philippine time) will be announced a day before the match.

READ: Opinion and editorial

Antonio Contreras and Yen Makabenta are today's front page columnists. Contreras talks about poverty porn while Makabenta discusses foreign policy.

Today's editorial discusses the country's education problems.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.