Good day. Here are the stories for The Manila Times for Wednesday, September 14, 2022.

READ: Minority rejects blue ribbon sugar report

THE Senate minority bloc has rejected the Senate blue ribbon committee (BRC) report on its probe of the sugar import fiasco as it disagreed with the panel's findings clearing Executive Secretary Victor Rodriguez in the scandal. Senate Minority Leader Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel 3rd and Sen. Ana Theresia "Risa" Hontiveros on Tuesday released their own report on the investigation of the allegedly questionable importation of 300,000 metric tons of sugar under Sugar Order 4 (SO 4). In a press briefing, the two senators said Rodriguez "was not entirely blameless in the sugar importation mess." The minority bloc report raised the "silence" of the blue ribbon panel, led by Sen. Francis Tolentino, on the accountability of Rodriguez.

READ: Marcos OKs moratorium on land amortization

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PRESIDENT Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. signed Executive Order (EO) 4 on his 65th birthday imposing a one-year moratorium on land amortization and interest payments of agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) for agricultural lands distributed under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), Agrarian Reform Secretary Conrado Estrella 3rd said. Estrella led a delegation of 160 department officials, land reform beneficiaries and advocates in witnessing the signing of EO 4 in Malacañang also on Tuesday. He said the moratorium would help unburden the ARBs from their debts, enabling them to use the money instead in developing their farms, maximizing their capacity to produce and propelling the growth of the economy.

READ: Buying price of palay drops to P13 per kilo

FARMERS in Central Luzon on Tuesday complained that the buying price of palay (unhusked rice) has dropped to P13 per kilo, P6 lower than the P19 per kilo set by the National Food Authority (NFA). In a radio interview, Central Luzon Farmers' Cooperative president Sonny Sioson urged the government to address the plight of palay farmers, saying his group will be forced to campaign to reduce the planting of rice fields to 1.5 million hectares from the current 3 million hectares.

READ: Conditional masking may cause case spike – expert

AN infectious disease expert expects a possible increase in the number of Covid-19 cases as the country implements the lifting of masks in open-air areas. President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. signed Executive Order (EO) 3 on Monday which allows the non-wearing of masks in open spaces and in so-called low-risk settings among individuals considered "low risk." In a briefing on Tuesday, infectious dis- ease expert Dr. Edsel Maurice Salvaña said any loosening of public-health standards will lead to a possible increase in cases. He also said the new mandate was just an "extension" of the current policy allowing non-wearing of masks in settings such as dining, exercise and sports.

READ: Palace extends state of calamity

MALACAÑANG on Tuesday announced it is further extending the state of calamity throughout the country until the end of the year due to the coronavirus disease pandemic. Signed by President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. last Monday, Proclamation 57 extends the validity of the declaration "in order for the National Government andLocal Government Units to continuously deliver Covid-19 related interventions." These include the mass vaccination program; utilization of appropriate funds, including the Quick Response Fund (QRF), in their disaster preparedness and response efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19; monitoring and control of prices of basic necessities and prime commodities; and providing basic services to the affected population, among others.The order will be in effect from Sept. 13 to Dec. 21, 2022 "unless earlier lifted or extended as circumstances warrant."

READ: DA allots P100M to boost onion production

THE Department of Agriculture (DA) has allotted at least P100 million to boost the country's onion production amid the continued shortage of white onions. The department said various interventions will be implemented to support the bulb industry. It targets to increase production to 279,270 metric tons from 229,539 metric tons from 2021 to 2025. It will also ensure ready markets for the produce of onion farmers' cooperatives and associations. For 2022, the agency allocated P47.48 million for the provision of seeds, seedlings and fertilizers as part of the implementation of the DA High Value Crops Development Program.

BUSINESS: Business planning key to survival - experts

Topping business, business planning and strategy are what companies need to survive amid the current global uncertainties and the shift to digitization. During the 20th MAP (Management Association of the Philippines) International CEO Conference 2022 titled "The Wins of Change: Thriving in a World of Betweens" on Tuesday, OpenSpace Ventures Plus adviser and Manila Times opinion columnist Stephen CuUnjieng stressed that business planning is key to a company's survival, even more than ever, in this age of digitization and exiting the pandemic. He explained that companies need to be proactive with their business strategies and not be reactive in order to be adaptive to sudden changes, such as the pandemic, which caused business priorities to change and new trends to emerge.

SPORTS: EJ wins 6th gold in outdoor season

Over to sports, Filipino Olympian Ernest John "EJ" Obiena capped his outdoor pole vault campaign this year by winning the gold medal at the Gala dei Castelli in Bellinzona, Switzerland on Tuesday (Philippine time). In his second attempt, Obiena cleared 5.81 meters to set a new meet record and capture the gold in this 10-player field. His latest mint came just a day after topping the Liechtenstein leg of the Golden Fly Series. Once more, the 26-year-old Obiena tried to reset his own Asian record of 5.94 meters by attempting to clear the 5.95-meter bar. The 6-foot-2 pole vaulter, however, failed in three tries. Obiena's Gala dei Castelli conquest is his sixth gold in eight competitions where he made the podium in each tournament.

READ: Opinion and editorial

Rigoberto Tiglao and Fr. Ranhilio Aquino are today's front page columnists. Tiglao asks if the Communist Party of the Philippines is now headless, while Fr. Aquino hits out at people celebrating the death of Queen Elizabeth 2nd, calling them "out of tune".

Today's editorial tackles the Fiscal Incentives Review Board's acceptance of reality. 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 Isabelle Dignadice.