Good day. Here are the stories for The Manila Times for Friday, July 23, 2021.

READ: New Delta cases trigger alarm

Twelve more cases of the Delta variant of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) were reported by the Department of Health (DoH) on Thursday as signs of a new surge began to emerge. The DoH said 11 of the cases were confirmed to be local cases, an indication that the infection could have already spread within their communities. The DoH said it was still verifying if the 12th case was also a local patient or a returning overseas Filipino or ROF. Adding to the concern is the finding of OCTA Research that Covid cases and reproduction numbers are on the rise again.

READ: Buses for vaccinated passengers eyed

Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Jose Maria "Joey" Concepcion 3rd proposed the deployment of buses for fully vaccinated passengers to increase capacity and augment mobility as the economy continues to gradually open up. Concepcion, who is also the founder of Go Negosyo, made the proposal during his meeting with the transport sector on Wednesday.

READ: Go: PDP-Laban finalizing Senate slate

SEN. Christopher Lawrence "Bong" Go said the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) is still drawing up its Senate slate. Go said in a statement Thursday nine Cabinet members, some reelectionists and comebacking senators want to be included in the senatorial lineup. Go said President Rodrigo Duterte will choose the candidates who share his vision of continuing the positive change that his administration has worked hard to achieve. For now, however, the President and his administration is focused on strengthening the country's Covid-19 response and ramping up economic recovery.

READ: Court's ICC ruling to fuel Duterte's VP bid – Lagman

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman on Thursday said the Supreme Court decision on the International Criminal Court (ICC) issue will further fuel President Rodrigo Duterte's "obsession" to run for vice president. Lagman hailed the Supreme Court decision as "an added luster to judicial independence." He lauded the court for rebuffing Duterte's "repeated posturing that the withdrawal of the Philippines on March 16, 2018 at his sole behest deprives the ICC of its jurisdiction over him and his men for alleged crimes against humanity and other atrocities due to his brutal war on drugs."

READ: No fans, fewer athletes: Unusual Olympics starts


One of the strangest Olympics in history will get off to an equally unusual start when the Tokyo 2020 opening ceremony takes place in front of thousands of empty seats on Friday. Just 1,000 dignitaries will be present at the 68,000-seat Olympic Stadium for the traditional extravaganza, usually a time of celebration for the host nation.

READ: 'Lack of resources could favor Leni'

Vice President Maria Leonor "Leni" Robredo's admission that she lacks the resources for a presidential bid is "a favorable circumstance," Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said. Robredo said in a television interview she has no resources to launch a "decent" presidential campaign.

READ: Pasig completes jabs for seniors

Pasig City announced on Thursday that it has completed the vaccination of its senior citizens against Covid-19. Pasig City Mayor Victor María Regis "Vico" Sotto said 44,703 senior citizens were given the first dose, 84 percent of which have received the second dose. Sotto attributed the successful inoculation to efficient information dissemination and the Pasig Pass, a computer application that manages data encompassing testing, contact tracing and vaccination records.

BUSINESS: Debt-to-GDP ratio at 60%

Over to business, a bank analyst said the country's fiscal authorities may need to reassess their present debt-to-gross domestic product (GDP) reduction strategy as credit downgrades loom. In a Thursday commentary, ING Bank Manila senior economist Nicholas Antonio Mapa noted that Fitch Ratings, in downgrading the Philippines' investment-grade rating from stable to negative, highlighted the scarring effects of the prolonged downturn in economic activity, as well as how weak growth could affect the country's overall fiscal health.

SPORTS: Nievarez jumpstarts PH campaign in Tokyo

Topping sports, Cris Nievarez jumpstarts the Philippines' campaign in the Tokyo Olympics on Friday morning. The 21-year-old rower is the first Filipino athlete to see action even before the 32nd Olympiad officially opens on Friday evening. Nievarez, the pride of Atimonan, Quezon, is to paddle at the Sea Forest Waterway in Heat 5 of the men's single sculls at 8:10 a.m. (Philippine time). The Sea Forest Waterway is the same venue where the 5-foot-11 Nievarez, a 2019 Southeast Asian Games gold medalist, competed in the Asia & Oceania Olympic Rowing Continental Qualification Regatta and earned an Olympic berth last May.

READ: Opinion and editorial

Rigoberto Tiglao and Ruben Torres are our front page columnists. Tiglao believes candidates running in next year's elections are doing it "for the funds of it", while Torres discusses about the town of Palauig, Zambales.

Today's editorial discusses the recent Pegasus spyware issue. 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 Friday ahead.