Good day. Here are the stories for The Manila Times for Saturday, March 18, 2023.

READ: Marcos: PH needs ‘well-trained’ army

PRESIDENT Ferdinand Marcos Jr. wants a “well-trained” military to deal with external threats that are becoming “more complicated and more difficult” as tensions continue to mount between Manila and Beijing over conflicting claims in the South China Sea. Addressing the troops from the Army’s 9th Infantry Division (ID) in Camp Elias Angeles in Pili, Camarines Sur, on Thursday, the President said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) must prioritize its mission to guard the country’s maritime territory. He said guarding the contested waters, which are close to Camp Elias Angeles, is the 9th ID’s new mission. The row between the Philippines and China over the South China Sea has been escalating, and Manila has filed numerous diplomatic protests against the intrusion of Chinese ships in its territorial waters. Beijing claims about 80 percent of the strategic sea lane by virtue of “historical rights.”

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READ: Oil spill-hit town to sue tanker owner

THE mayor of Pola, Oriental Mindoro, said the town plans to sue the owner of the tanker MT Princess Empress after it was revealed in a Senate hearing that it has no permit to operate. In a recorded video interview with The Manila Times, Mayor Jennifer Cruz said she wanted to hold those behind the spill accountable. At Tuesday’s hearing, it emerged that the tanker, which was carrying 800,000 liters of oil, did not have an updated permit to operate. What it had was a certificate of public convenience from the Maritime Industry Authority. The RDC Reield Marine Services has since apologized for the incident.

READ: DoJ to look into string of crimes in Negros

NOW that Negros Oriental governor Roel Degamo has been laid to rest, the Department of Justice (DoJ) will push through with the investigation of “many other crimes” committed in the province that the Degamo family wants the authorities to look into. Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said on Friday his department has invited the slain governor’s family to a dialogue next week. He said the DoJ will also study the request of Pamplona, Negros Oriental, Mayor Janice Degamo, the governor’s widow, to freeze the assets of Negros Oriental Third District Rep. Arnolfo Teves Jr. Teves has been implicated as the person who ordered the assassination of Degamo by the suspects in the case who are now in the custody of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in Manila. Teves, who had flown to the United States before the Degamo killing, is also facing numerous criminal complaints, the latest being illegal possession of firearms and explosives. Multiple murder cases were also filed against him in connection with a string of killings in various parts of Negros Oriental in 2019.

READ: 1,573 pass board exams for physicians

A STUDENT of the Mariano Marcos State University-Batac (MMSU) topped this year’s licensure exams for physicians, the Professional Regulations Commission (PRC) reported Friday. The commission said 1,573 out of 2,887 examinees passed, for a passing rate of 54.49 percent. The exams were held on March 5, 6, 12, and 13 in testing centers in Metro Manila, Baguio, Cagayan de Oro, Cebu, Davao, Iloilo, Legazpi, Lucena, Pampanga, Rosales, Tacloban, Tuguegarao, and Zamboanga. Aira Cassandra Suguitan Castro of MMSU was the top-notcher with 89 percent.

READ: Bersamin denies quitting post, blames fake news

EXECUTIVE Secretary Lucas Bersamin on Friday dismissed reports that he has stepped down from his post. Bersamin, a former chief justice, said he is a victim of “black propaganda.” Talks circulated earlier last week that he and several members of his staff resigned. He did not say if he knows where the reports came from. The Presidential Communications Office (PCO) has also since refuted the reports and tagged them as “fake news.”

BUSINESS: BoP forecasts revised

Topping business, monetary authorities have approved new balance of payments (BoP) projections for this year and next based on latest data and emerging developments, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) announced on Friday. The deficit outlook for 2023 was trimmed to $1.6 billion from $5.4 billion previously while that for 2024 was set at $500 million. The central bank qualified that these forecasts had limitations, especially given the continued buildup of external challenges. Stubborn inflation and the impact of the Russia-Ukraine war, among others — factors highlighted in December’s BoP projection exercise — are expected to continue weighing down global growth prospects, “albeit with lesser adverse impact relative to previous estimates.” Resilient demand has led to slightly better growth forecasts for major trading partners such as the United States and the eurozone, the BSP noted, while locally inflation and a spending slowdown are likely to dampen economic activity.

SPORTS: Creamline, F2 Logistics begin semis showdown

Over to sports, the much anticipated Creamline versus F2 Logistics showdown will jumpstart the 2023 Premier Volleyball League (PVL) AllFilipino Conference semifinals today, March 18, at the PhilSports Arena in Pasig City. The defending champs Cool Smashers and the Cargo Movers collide in Game 1 of their best-ofthree series at 4 p.m. Creamline finished the elimination round as the top seed team with a 7-1 slate and 22 points. The Cool Smashers enter the playoffs with a four-game winning run. The latest of that streak was a 25-17, 25-22, 27-29, 25-8 triumph over Akari last Tuesday in Iloilo. Despite the absence of team captain and superstar Alyssa Valdez, who still can’t play in the semifinals as she continues to recover from her knee injury, the Cool Smashers looked formidable just the same in the tournament as Jema Galanza, Michele Gumabao and Tots Carlos take turns in leading the team with Jia de Guzman orchestrating Creamline’s offense.

READ: Opinion and editorial

Antonio Contreras, Yen Makabenta and Danton Remoto are today’s front page columnists. Contreras weighs in on the issues surrounding actress Liza Soberano, Makabenta pictures the country as that of Rip Van Winkle, while Remoto talks about the rise of Filipino writers abroad.

Today’s editorial discusses online safety being under the responsibility of the users themselves. Read the full version in the paper’s opinion section or listen to the Voice of the Times.

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For The Manila Times, this is Kim Luden Salinas reporting.