Good day. Here are the top stories of The Manila Times for Monday, Sept. 18, 2023.Today's podcast is brought to you by Wilcon Depot, the Philippines' leading home improvement and construction supplies retailer -- your trusted building partner.READ: Comelec warns vs digital vote buyingTHE Commission on Elections (Comelec) warned electronic wallet operators they could be involved in vote-buying cases if they allow candidates in the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE) to use their apps to buy votes. Comelec Chairman George Garcia said over the weekend that the agency has already informed GCash, Maya and other companies involved in mobile payment services that they may face charges for conspiracy to commit vote-buying. Garcia said they advised the companies to monitor high-volume transactions, especially in the days prior to election day. The companies were also told to be suspicious when money is sent to 50 to 200 people in one day. He said companies involved in digital wallets and online banking have vowed to support Comelec's efforts against vote-buying. The poll body intends to sign a memorandum of agreement with e-wallet companies, Garcia said. The Comelec had earlier said it would coordinate with the Anti-Money Laundering Council and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas in monitoring unusually large transactions on GCash and PayMaya. Garcia said violators face imprisonment for up to six years.READ: Pinoys back legalizing medical marijuanaTHE legalization of marijuana for therapeutic purposes is being backed by majority of Filipinos, a recent study by independent think tank Capstone-Intel Corp. showed. The survey, conducted from August 1 to 10, found that 63 percent of the 1,205 respondents favored legalizing medical marijuana as long as its proponents 'conduct more research [and] strict policy guidelines for access and dosage control.' The respondents also cited the need for more awareness and education on medical marijuana. The remaining 37 percent were against legalization. The poll also found that 38 percent agreed that the legalization of medical marijuana could offer a viable solution for patients who have not found successful treatments through conventional medicine. On the other hand, 29 percent neither agreed nor disagreed with this statement, while 24 percent agreed that medical marijuana legalization could provide relief to such patients. The poll also showed that 49 percent of the respondents called for further research and reviews into the potential advantages and drawbacks of using cannabis for medical purposes. The survey found that 35 percent of the respondents agreed. Based on the study, 55 percent of respondents expressed a strong level of agreement regarding the regulation of medical marijuana to guarantee its quality, safety and proper dosage control. Additionally, 30 percent of respondents agreed with this statement.READ: Agribusiness key to sustainable rice productionINVESTING in agriculture and focusing on agribusiness could lead to sustainable rice production in the country, a former Agriculture chief said. Guesting at the Business and Politics show hosted by The Manila Times CEO Dante 'Klink' Ang 2nd, former Agriculture secretary William Dar said it was time to treat farming and fishing as an agribusiness venture. He also considered agribusiness as a way to boost the farming industry. Dar cited the importance of farm clustering. The farmers will be much more productive and earn a higher income 'because they are now looking at the whole value chain much more,' Dar said. He said investing, particularly in irrigation infrastructure, could improve the long-term sustainability of rice production. The National Irrigation Administration (NIA) could only irrigate around 35,000 hectares of farmlands every year, way below the 1 million hectare target. The government can reach the target within the next five years through private-public partnerships, he said. Dar also noted that building more farm-to-market roads could boost agricultural productivity.READ: Libya flood death toll estimated at 11,300A week after a wall of water rushed through the Libyan coastal city of Derna, sweeping thousands to their deaths, the focus turned Sunday to caring for survivors of the disaster. Estimates of the number of lives lost vary widely. The most recent official death toll, from the health minister of the eastern-based administration, Othman Abdeljalil, is that 3,166 people were killed. But according to a United Nations report released on Sunday, the toll from Derna alone has risen to 11,300. Citing the Libyan Red Crescent, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) added that another 10,100 people were still missing in the devastated city. Aid is now arriving in the North African country as the world mobilizes to help emergency services cope with the aftermath of the deadly flood. At least 40,000 people have been displaced across northeastern Libya, according to the International Organization for Migration, which cautioned the actual number is likely higher given the difficulty accessing the worst-affected areas. Two dams upstream from Derna burst a week ago under the pressure of torrential rains from the hurricane-strength Storm 'Daniel.' The dams had been built to protect the port city of 100,000 people after it was hit by significant flooding in the mid-20th century.Topping BusinessREAD: Analysts: Key rates to stay unchangedTHE Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) will likely keep key interest rates unchanged this Thursday as domestic inflation expectations remain well-anchored, analysts said. They told The Manila Times that despite last month's inflation uptick, a fourth successive pause should be expected, especially with the US Federal Reserve also seen holding rates steady. Monetary authorities worldwide were forced to tighten last year as inflation surged in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The BSP's policy rate currently stands at a 16-year high of 6.25 percent following 425 basis points (bps) of rate hikes. A pause was ordered in May this year after domestic inflation started falling from January's 14-year high of 8.7 percent. Two more pauses, in June and August, were prompted by a continued easing in consumer price growth. Renewed price pressures, however, saw inflation pick up to 5.3 last month — higher than a consensus forecast of 4.9 percent — from 4.7 percent in July. Core inflation, which strips out volatile food and energy items slowed to 6.1 percent from 6.7 percent. Year-to-date, inflation rose to 6.6 percent while core inflation averaged 7.4 percent, still well over the central bank's target range of 2.0 to 4.0 percent.In SportsREAD: Cone expects Brownlee in full force vs BahrainWITH Gilas Pilipinas going full swing on its training for one final week, interim coach Tim Cone is confident that naturalized player Justin Brownlee will be somewhere between '95 to 98 percent' when the team starts its 19th Asian Games group stage match against Bahrain on September 26 in Hangzhou, China. Cone said it's just been over a month since the 6-foot-4 Brownlee underwent what he described as a 'major surgery' on his ankle to remove bone spurs from three different areas last August. The American mentor said knowing Brownlee, he's that type of player who would 'not want to miss practice or games' despite some aches and pains he feels.Cone has in fact, won six of his seven PBA titles with Brownlee in tow as Barangay Ginebra's import in the pro league. To date, the 65-year-old Cone is the PBA's all-time winningest head coach in history, and he hopes his partnership with the 35-year-old Brownlee in the Asian Games will spell the same success. At the moment, Gilas is training on closed-door for five days at the Inspire Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna, with Cone hoping to see the players continue to adapt the system. The national squad is slated to face the Meralco Bolts in a scrimmage game on September 19 before winding up their preparation by playing against the Korean club LG Sakers on September 22 at the PhilSports Arena.READ: Opinion/EditorialToday's editorial talks about joint patrol proposals as a show of solidarity by PH allies. Read the full version on print and digital or listen to the Voice of the Times. Featured columnists on the front page are Rigoberto Tiglao, Fr. Ranhilio Aquino and Francisco Tatad. Tiglao says President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has to change his decision-making process; Aquino on what is so threatening about synodality; and Tatad on the country's continuing political muddle.For more news and information, read The Manila Times on print, subscribe to its digital edition or log on to www.manilatimes.net. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and LinkedIn; and be part of our communities on Viber, Telegram, and Mastodon.