Good day. Here are the top stories of TheManila Times for Monday, March 13, 2023.

READ: ‘US driving wedge between China, PH’

THE Chinese embassy in the Philippines on Sunday said it sees “no problem” with the Philippines over freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, but accused the United States of using the issue to drive a wedge between Manila and Beijing. The embassy issued the statement in reaction to the remarks of US Ambassador to Manila MaryKay Carlson in a television interview on the South China Sea dispute and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and the US. Carlson had said US-Philippine joint patrols in the waterways are important to ensure that it remains free and open to international navigation. The US has been sending its warships on “freedom of navigation” sorties in the South China Sea, which China claims is part of its territory. Carlson said the EDCA sites, where the US can store arms and equipment, would not only help the provincial and local authorities to enhance their ability to defend themselves, but to grow their economy.

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READ: QC judge in Dengvaxia case inhibits

A QUEZON City judge has decided to inhibit from further handling the case filed by parents of children whose deaths were linked to the controversial dengue vaccine Dengvaxia. In her order dated March 7, 2023, a copy of which was obtained by The Manila Times, Regional Trial Court Branch 13 Judge Lily Ann Marcos-Padaen said she abided by her duty as a magistrate to hear the cases “with utmost diligence, competence and impartiality.” She denied having “a bias against the prosecution, nor there is any basis for any of the parties to doubt the capacity of this judge to justly decide the case before her based on the evidence presented.” The complainants led by Ian Colite and Analyn Ebona had submitted an urgent motion for the judge to step down from the case, accusing her of being partial and unfair.

READ: Yulo grabs 2 golds in World Cup leg

FILIPINO Olympic gymnast Carlos Edriel Yulo won two gold medals in the FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Cup Series in Baku, Azerbaijan.Yulo ruled the vault final on Sunday with an average of 14.933 points. On Saturday, the 23-year-old took the gold in the parallel bars. Finishing second to Yulo in the vault was Harry Hepworth of Great Britain, who scored 14.816 points. Shek Wai Hung of Hong Kong finished third with 14.716 points. French Cameron-Lie Bernard took the bronze with 14.600 points. In the parallel bars, Ukrainian Illia Kovtun took the silver with 15.366 points. Kovtun had a higher difficulty rating of 6.6, but Yulo racked up more points in the execution. Yulo also competed in the still rings event but failed to make the top three, finishing seventh with 14.166 points.

READ: First Lady shares secret to long marriage

First Lady Marie Louise “Liza” Araneta-Marcos, who has been married to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. for almost 30 years, shared secrets to a lasting marriage to 2,023 couples who tied the knot in a mass ceremony here Saturday afternoon. Araneta-Marcos, who was the guest of honor of the event held at the Bacolod City Government Center grounds said there is no magic formula to make a marriage work 100 percent, adding that each couple is unique. First, she said, couples should “make sure that the courtship continues” and having a regular date night with your spouse is one of the keys. Second is for couples to take care of each other and be “your spouse’s biggest supporter and ardent advocate” and third is making the house a happy haven for loved ones.

READ: ‘PH must nurture workforce to be an investment hub’

To achieve its goal of becoming an investment destination, the Philippines needs to upgrade the skills of its workforce, a longtime British businessman in the country has said. Guesting on the “Business and Politics” program of SMNI News Channel last Saturday, Chris Nelson, executive director and trustee of the British Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (BCCP), told the program host, The Manila Times Chairman and CEO Dante “Klink” Ang 2nd, that the Philippines’ biggest assets is its people. He said Filipino workers are sought after around the world, but the challenge is to harness their talents in their own country. In a gathering on March 3, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said that the Philippines is poised to become the “destination” of choice for businesses and investors. Marcos also said his administration has put in place reforms to make the country an “ideal player” in the export sector.

Topping Business

READ: 2022 gross borrowings down 16.2%

The national government’s gross borrowings fell by 16.2 percent last year to P2.16 trillion from P2.58 trillion in 2021, data from the Bureau of the Treasury (BTr) showed. Domestic borrowings accounted for the bulk at P1.64 trillion based on the Treasury’s full-year cash operations report, substantially lower than the year-earlier P2.01 trillion. Foreign financing, meanwhile, totaled P520.09 billion, also down from P568.7 billion in 2021. The bulk of domestic borrowings or P1.19 trillion came from fixed rate Treasury bonds with another P834.5 billion raised from retail T-bonds. The government also redeemed P385.8 billion worth of T-bills. As for foreign borrowings, P234.26 billion came from two global bond offerings last year while P28.55 billion was courtesy of a samurai bond issuance. Program and project loans accounted for P136.6 billion and P120.7 billion, respectively. Payments to foreign creditors, meanwhile, totaled P130.48 billion.

In Sports

READ: Lady Bulldogs whip UE Warriors for 4th win

NATIONAL University (NU) whipped University of the East (UE), 25-23, 25-9, 25-12, to take its second straight win on Sunday, March 12, in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) Season 85 women’s volleyball tournament at the PhilSports Arena. Bouncing back from her first scoreless game against University of the Philippines last Wednesday, reigning MVP Bella Belen unleashed 13 points and seven excellent receptions to lead the Lady Bulldogs who improved to 4-1, solo second in the standings at press time. Alyssa Solomon topscored with 15 points and Erin Pangilinan notched 10 as Lams Lamina dished out 17 excellent sets.

READ: Scheffler grabs two-shot lead at Players

American Scottie Scheffler birdied the final hole to complete a seven-under par 65 and take a two-shot lead into Sunday’s (Monday in Manila) final round of the Players Championship. With Spain’s world number one Jon Rahm having withdrawn from the tournament with illness and number three Rory McIlroy missing the cut, Scheffler, who is 14-under, can regain the top spot in the world rankings with a top-five finish at TPC Sawgrass. He faces an international challenge, though, with Australian Min Woo Lee on 12-under after carding 66 and his compatriot Cam Davis a further two strokes back. English pair Tommy Fleetwood and Aaron Rai are level in fourth place, five shots back of Scheffler along with South African Christiaan Bezuidenhout and American Chad Ramey, the 18-hole leader.

READ: Opinion/Editorial

The Times, in its editorial, writes about how lead lawmakers need to be more productive. Read the full version on print or digital or listen to The Voice of the Times. Featured columnists on today’s front page are Rigoberto Tiglao, Fr. Ranhilio Aquino and Francisco Tatad. Tiglao slams the govt for being helpless and leaderless in the Mindoro oil spill; Aquino on thinkong atonement; and Tatad on something afoot in the Senate.

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This is Pete Llevares reporting.