Good day. Here are the stories for The Manila Times for Friday, November 17, 2023.

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READ: Remove illegal structures in SCS

THE Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Thursday called on China to remove all illegal structures it constructed in the contested Spratly Islands in the South China Sea (SCS) and cease reclamations in the area. Foreign Affairs spokesman Ma. Teresita Daza also said China should "be accountable" for the damage caused by its illegal activities in the S.C.S. Daza made the statement to dismiss the claim made by Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin last November 10 that the Philippines "grounded" B.R.P. Sierra Madre in Ren'ai Jiao or Ayungin Shoal "in an attempt to permanently occupy" Ren'ai Jiao. China claimed that Ren'ai Jiao is part of its territory as China Coast Guard and Chinese maritime militia boats tried to prevent Philippine vessels from conducting resupply missions to Filipino troops on board the beached rusting B.R.P. Sierra Madre.

READ: PH eyes 80 infra projects through Maharlika fund

PRESIDENT Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Thursday said the government is eyeing to finance "about 80 potential infrastructure projects" through the Philippines' sovereign wealth fund, the Maharlika Investment Fund. In his speech during the Philippine Economic Briefing at the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in San Francisco, Marcos said he is looking forward to the M.I.F's operationalization, expected by the end of the year.

READ: Lawmaker debunks impeach-Sara rumors

HOUSE Deputy Minority Leader and ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro said there was no move to impeach Vice President Sara Duterte. Castro said in a statement on Thursday that "the supposed talks on impeachment now are mere discussions of some congressmen and not a serious move" against the vice president. Last November 13, Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, president of the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats, replied during an interview "It's still a UniTeam," when asked about the perceived rift within the alliance. The UniTeam, formed during last year's elections to support the tandem of Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Duterte, is made up of the Lakas-C.M.D, Partido Federal ng Pilipinas, Hugpong ng Pagbabago, and Partido ng Masang Pilipino.

READ: US, PH vow to speed up EDCA implementation

United States Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Defense Secretary Gilberto "Gibo" Teodoro Jr. pledged to further speed up the implementation of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). In a joint statement released after their meeting on the sidelines of the Asean Defense Ministers' Meeting-Plus in Jakarta, Indonesia, the two defense chiefs highlighted the recent progress the two countries have made to modernize their alliance, enhance interoperability and address new and emerging challenges. They also welcomed the recent completion of the $24-million runway upgrade at Basa Airbase in Floridablanca, Pampanga, one of the EDCA sites. Austin and Teodoro highlighted the importance of preserving the rights of all nations to fly, sail, and operate safely and responsibly wherever international law allows.

READ: Marcos calls for resilient APEC economies

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Thursday (Manila time) called on the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation member nations to go full throttle in addressing challenges to attain "resilient and sustainable" economies anchored on APEC's core values. Speaking at the APEC CEO Summit at the George Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, California, the Chief Executive urged his fellow leaders to work together to overcome "bleak forecasts loom over the progress we have made since the pandemic."

BUSINESS: Rates on hold; tightening still likely

Topping business, key interest rates went unchanged on Thursday as expected but monetary authorities said further tightening could be ordered to anchor inflation expectations. Following an unscheduled 25-basis-point increase last month, the Monetary Board decided to keep the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas' policy rate at 6.50 percent. The central bank's overnight deposit and lending rates also stayed at 6.0 percent and 7.0 percent, respectively. Key interest rates have been raised by a total of 450 bps since May last year in a bid to temper inflation, with pauses ordered during the prior four policy meetings as inflation began moderating from January's 14-year high of 8.7 percent. Consumer prices began rising anew in August and September, prompting the off-cycle rate hike, before cooling to 4.9 last month.

SPORTS: Bishop-led Ginebra debuts today

Over to sports, Barangay Ginebra begins its quest for back-to-back P.B.A. Commissioner's Cup titles when it makes its highly anticipated Season 48 debut against winless Converge on Friday night at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City. The Gin Kings take on the FiberXers at 8 p.m, following the 4 p.m. curtain raiser between Magnolia and NorthPort in a battle between two unbeaten teams. Mentored by the league's all-time winning coach Tim Cone, Ginebra's veteran-laden squad got an even bigger boost during the offseason after signing up combo guard Maverick Ahanmisi via free agency. The 6-foot-2 Ahanmisi won last season's Most Improved Player award after averaging P.B.A. careerhigh numbers of 13.7 points, 5.9 assists and 3.8 assists in 31 minutes of play for the Converge FiberXers in 2022-23.

READ: Opinion and editorial

Rigoberto Tiglao and Francisco Tatad are today's front page columnists. Tiglao assesses a statement on people saying they should not be accessories to genocide, while Tatad asks if the so-called "UniTeam" is self-destructing.

Today's editorial believes that reducing vaccine wastage is crucial in preparing for the next pandemic. Read the full version in the paper's opinion section or listen to the Voice of the Times.

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