Good day. Here are the stories of The Manila Times for Saturday, August 27, 2022.

READ: Marcos lauds US' help for MSMEs

PRESIDENT Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. on Friday hailed the efforts of the United States government in helping the Philippines' micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). The President personally thanked US Ambassador to the Philippines MaryKay Carlson for her government's push to further strengthen US-Philippine relations through the United States Agency for International Development's (USAid) initiatives for the digital transformation of MSMEs and the enhancement of their access to financial services. Carlson said the USAid had partnered with American companies and non-profit organizations to assist 10,000 Philippine MSMEs during the economic downturn. The agency also helped Philippine microfinance institutions disburse P40 million in grants to 3,500 MSMEs so they could bounce back from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the climate crisis, "and other challenges," she said. The ambassador said she recognizes small businesses to be "the backbone of the Philippine economy."

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READ: Business, government team up to lift small traders

AT least 37 of the country's biggest business organizations on Friday pledged to help the government attain inclusive growth for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME). During a conference simultaneous with MSME Summit 2022 at the Manila Hotel, the Kapatid Angat Lahat Program, led by Go Negosyo of Jose Maria "Joey" Concepcion 3rd, vowed to help attain "the overall goal of shared prosperity" by working to "harness public-private partnership to help MSME development." The partnership will establish linkages, pool business opportunities and support government policies and programs to create a sustainable business environment for MSMEs.

READ: Robin on charter debate: Let's talk, not bicker

SEN. Robinhood "Robin" Padilla on Friday stressed that the Senate discussions on amendments to the Constitution should not be the spark for bickering. Padilla made this clear after suspending the hearing of the Senate Committee on Constitutional Reforms and Revision of Codes, which he chairs. He said the hearings aim to gather insight into how the Charter can be fine-tuned to better address the problems facing the country like joblessness, high electricity rates and low wages.

READ: DepEd still budget topper; DoTr has biggest increase

EDUCATION continues to get the biggest slice of the national budget pie, but transportation and agriculture have the highest percentage increases. Based on a presentation by Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman during a hearing at the House of Representatives on Friday, the Department of Education (DepEd) was allocated P852 billion in the proposed P5.268-trillion General Appropriations Act (GAA) for 2023. The figure, however, was only 8.2 percent higher than the P788.5 billion for DepEd in the 2022 budget. By comparison, the Department of Transportation's (DoTr) allocation jumped by 147.7 percent, to P145.4 billion from P58.7 billion in 2022. The Department of Agriculture (DA) would receive P172 billion, 42.3-percent higher than the P120.9 billion in 2022. Pangandaman cited priorities such as access to tertiary education, subsidies, facilities, computerization programs, flexible learning options, feeding programs, wi-fi connectivity and internship programs, for raising the DepEd allocation.

READ: PH imports 93% salt needs - Agri group

AN agricultural group on Friday said that the country imports 93 percent of its salt requirements of 550,000 metric tons from China and Australia with the "dead local salt industry." In a radio interview, Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (Pcafi) President Danilo Fausto said that while there is no shortage, he stressed that the salt supply is being sourced outside. At the same time, he blamed the "Act for Salt Iodization Nationwide" (ASIN law), or Republic Act 8172, requiring the addition of iodine to salt, for killing the industry. Fausto added that many of the country's exporters are also affected by the ASIN law.

READ: Sugar producers buck plan to abolish SRA

SUGAR producers on Friday opposed a plan in Congress to abolish the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA), saying it was resigned SRA administrator Hermenegildo Serafica who created the mess in the sugar supply. In a radio interview, United Sugar Producers Federation President Manuel Lamata expressed confidence that reforms will be implemented at the agency with the appointment of new SRA officials led by acting administrator Dave Alba.

BUSINESS: Govt urged to upgrade refinery industry

Topping business, the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (AmCham) has urged the Philippines to upgrade its refining industry to solve the sugar crisis in the country. During the business group's 120th anniversary celebration late Wednesday evening, AmCham Philippines Executive Director Ebb Hinchliffe told reporters that the country is facing a shortage in sugar supply. Hinchliffe also dismissed the claims of widespread hoarding in the country despite the law enforcement authorities finding thousands of sugar bags stocked inside different warehouses.

SPORTS: EJ Obiena places 3rd in Lausanne

Over to sports, Filipino Olympian pole vaulter Ernest John "EJ" Obiena placed third at the Wanda Diamond League in Lausanne, Switzerland on early Friday morning (Philippine time). The 26-year-old Obiena cleared 5.80 meters to pick up the bronze medal two days after winning the gold at the Internationales Stabhochsprung-Meeting in Germany. American Christopher Nilsen got the silver medal, while Olympic champion Sweden's Armand Duplantis won the gold medal at 6.10 meters.

READ: Opinion and editorial

Antonio Contreras, Yen Makabenta, and Danton Remoto are today's front page columnists. Contreras tackles toxic social media behavior, Makabenta weighs in on the latest update on the sugar importation controversy, and Remoto shares what it's like to love the country.

Today's editorial calls for the publishing of a list of non-environmentally acceptable products. 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.