Good day. Here are the stories for The Manila Times for Saturday, March 6, 2021.

READ: Govt races to beat variants, mutations

The government is considering the simultaneous rollouts of the coronavirus vaccines of Sinovac and AstraZeneca to head off the growing threat of the virus’ new mutations. Speaking to reporters following the arrival of the first batch of AstraZeneca’s AZD1222 last Thursday, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said the government might begin deploying the vaccine to hospitals nationwide on Friday once immunization experts submit their recommendation on how to allocate the doses. The shipment of 500,000 AZD1222 doses was donated by the global vaccine-sharing initiative Covax Facility. The Philippines has also purchased 17 million doses of AZD1222, with the help of private firms and local government units. Delivery is expected in mid-2021.

READ: February inflation highest in 2 years

The Philippines posted its fastest inflation rate in over two years last February, racing to 4.7 percent on higher pork prices, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported on Friday. The figure surged from January’s 4.2 percent and a year ago’s 2.6 percent. It was, however, still within the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ (BSP) 4.3 to 5.1 percent projection range. The surge is the fastest since the 5.1 percent in December 2018 but slower than the 4.8-percent projected by economists surveyed by The Manila Times. The year-to-date consumer price growth averaged 4.5 percent, surpassing the central bank’s 2- to 4-percent range for 2021.

READ: US gives in to Duterte demand for military aid

Several days after demanding more military aid from the United States in exchange for preserving the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), President Rodrigo Duterte appears to have gotten what he wanted. Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Manuel Romualdez has announced that the Pentagon has given the Philippines an inventory of arms and military hardware it can provide to modernize the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

READ: Schools group pushes return to face-to-face classes

The return to face-to-face classes will improve students’ access to education and address the social and mental problems brought about by about a year of Covid-19 restrictions, a leader of an organization of private schools said. In an interview with The Manila Times, Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (Cocopea) Managing Director Joseph Noel Estrada voiced the group’s concern about the long-term effects of the lack of physical school interaction on students. Estrada said international and local studies on the effects of the pandemic on education revealed that school closures impacted on the students’ mental health, social aspect and overall learning gains.

READ: Customs, PDEA probed for P1.8-B smuggled shabu

THE Department of Justice (DoJ) has formed a panel of prosecutors to determine the criminal liability of top officials of the Bureau of Customs (BoC) and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in connection with the entry of P1.8 billion worth of shabu at the Manila International Container Port (MICP) in 2019. The panel was formed after the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) recommended the filing of charges against Customs Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero, Customs Deputy Commissioner Raniel Ramiro, PDEA Director-General Wilkins Villanueva, and several other officers and employees of the two agencies.

READ: Octa distances from AstraZeneca vaccine

The Octa Research Team has distanced itself from the comments made by one of its members who said that the AZD1222 Covid-19 vaccine made by British-Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca would “go to waste” because of its decreased efficacy on the South African variant of the virus. Octa fellow and University of Santo Tomas visiting professor Fr. Nicanor Austriaco said based on the study of more than 2,000 patients in South Africa, the AstraZeneca vaccine would lose its efficacy by as much as 60 percent and would only act like water if used against the variant. Austriaco’s remarks were disputed by the World Health Organization as well as the Department of Health, saying that the sample size of the study quoted by Austriaco was “small” and that the vaccine remains effective in places where there is a large proportion of cases of the variant.

READ: Duterte cuts IPP real property taxes

President Rodrigo Duterte has signed Executive Order (EO) 126 on Thursday, ordering the reduction and condonation of real property taxes and penalties assessed on power generation facilities of independent power producers (IPP). Duterte issued the order to stabilize the price of energy nationwide, noting it will result in power outages if IPPs failed to operate due to their tax liabilities.

READ: Police in Quezon City shootout faces NBI

OPERATIVES from the Quezon City Police Department (QCPD) who were involved in the shootout with agents from Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) appeared at the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on Friday. Around 20 operatives QCPD Special Operations Unit have turned up at the NBI main office in Manila after receiving a subpoena for their involvement in the “misencounter” at a Quezon City mall with PDEA operatives. They underwent questioning in the office of the bureau’s Metro Manila regional director Cesar Bacani. They also brought with them their affidavits about the incident. The police did not speak to the media before and after the inquiry.

BUSINESS: BSP to maintain rates amid higher inflation

In business, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) is likely to keep an accommodative monetary policy setting this year amid the accelerating inflation rate. This is according to analysts from ANZ Research, ING Bank Manila, Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC), Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), and HSBC. According to ANZ Research economist Kanika Bhatnagar and chief economist Sanjay Mathur, there is no compelling reason for the central bank to depart from its accommodative monetary policy stance this year. Last February, the BSP retained its key interest rates at their record low with the overnight borrowing, lending and deposit rates staying at 2.00 percent, 1.50 percent and 2.50 percent, respectively.

SPORTS: Standhardinger traded to Ginebra for Slaughter

Topping sports, the trade is one-for-one. The Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) has approved on Thursday the trade that sent Christian Standhardinger to Barangay Ginebra and Greg Slaughter to the NorthPort Batang Pier. The trade was just a one-on-one deal with no other players and draft picks involved. Standhardinger, the 2019 Governors’ Cup Best Player of the Conference, normed 19.9 points, 12.0 rebounds and 3.8 assists in the 2020 Philippine Cup bubble. Slaughter later said he was sad to leave his former team.

READ: Opinion and editorial

Yen Makabenta and Ramon Tulfo are today’s front page columnists. Makabenta talks about Covid-19 variants, while Tulfo believes the dismissal of former Philippine ambassador to Brazil Marichu Mauro was just and proper.

Today’s editorial is a reminder on disaster preparedness amid the increased alert level on Mount Pinatubo. Read the full version on the paper’s Opinion Section or listen to the Voice of The Times.


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With Dafort Villaseran, this is Aric John Sy Cua reporting. May you have a safe weekend ahead.

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