Here are the top stories of The Manila Times for Monday, Jan. 22, 2024.

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READ: Yulo's goal: Paris Olympics medal

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CARLOS Yulo counts the World Artistics Gymnastics Championships in Antwerp, Belgium, last October, where he had a disastrous performance, as one of the hardest, if not the hardest, tournaments he has competed in. The Filipino gymnast missed the all-around final of the Paris Olympics qualifying event after falling flat on his back during his dismount in the still rings in Antwerp. Right after that, he failed in his first attempt at the vault, uncharacteristic for Yulo, who ruled the apparatus in the 2021 World Artistics Gymnastics. Despite missing the all-around final, the 4-foot-11 dynamo still made his second straight Olympic qualification, being the highest-ranked eligible participant in the floor exercise. Qualifying vindicated his decision to skip the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, where he was a strong favorite to win multiple gold medals. Yulo, who turns 24 on February 16, is moving on from that underwhelming phase of his athletic career in a year that also saw him split up with long-time Japanese coach Munehiro Kugimiya, who transformed him into a world-class gymnast. Yulo, who is from Malate, Manila, is confident of winning a medal at the Olympics in July.

READ: House back from break, tackles last priority bills

THE House of Representatives will resume session on Monday with only four priority bills of the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (Ledac) awaiting its final approval. Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez said in a statement on Sunday that one of the measures on the list would be approved on third and final reading, leaving just three priority bills awaiting final approval. The measure is House Bill (HB) 9713 or the proposed "Philippine Self-Reliant Defense Posture Program Act," which the House approved on second reading last December 12. Romualdez said the country should have a credible defense program and industry to reduce its reliance on foreign allies and suppliers for its defense needs. The other Ledac priority measures awaiting a final House nod are the amendment of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act, which is being finalized by a technical working group, and the budget modernization bill and the proposed National Defense Act, which are under committee consideration. HB 9571, or the proposed "Chemical Weapons Prohibition Act," a House priority, is set for the chamber's final approval.

READ: Dinagat joins Sinulog festival for first time

The province of Dinagat Islands participated on Sunday in the Sinulog in Cebu City for the first time since the festival's inception 17 years ago. The 450 Tribu Kamanting performers from Dinagat, who were supported by Rep. Alan Uno Ecleo, competed in the street dance competition together with 16 other contingents, including those from other provinces. The other participating contingents are the Abellana National School, Banauan Cultural Group, Hut-ong sa Lunhawng Mamumoo sa Pamilyang Cebu Gen, Bulacao Village powered by Alpha Kappa Rho, Pundok Baniladnon sa Sugbo, Inayawan Talents Guild and Cultural Dance Troupe, Nagkahiusang Mananayaw sa Sapangdaku, Banay Labangon, Tribu Mabolokon, Pasayaw Festival representing The Province of Negros Oriental, Banay San Nicolas non, Lumad Basakanon, Tribu Divinohanon of Divino Amore Academy, Tribu Masadyang Subanian, Activong Binaliwhanon, and Tribu San Roque sa Cuidad. The Sinulog is an annual cultural and religious event celebrated on the third Sunday of January in Cebu City in honor of the Sto. Niño or the Child Jesus. The festival attracts between 1 million and 1.5 million people annually.

READ: Go Negosyo holds MSME mentoring event

SOME of the country's top business executives and founders converged for 3M on Wheels, Go Negosyo's first salvo for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) for the year. Held at the TriNoma Mall over the weekend, the event offers free entrepreneurship mentoring for MSMEs led by Go Negosyo founder Jose Maria "Joey" Concepcion 3rd. Among the mentors at the event were George Barcelon of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), Bernie Liu of Penshoppe, PCCI-NCR's Tess Ngan Tian of Lots'a Pizza, prolific restaurateur Ricky Dee, Wildflour's Ana de Ocampo, AstraZeneca's Lotis Ramin, Richie Cuna of Fiorgelato, The Manila Times' Blanca Mercado, Ovation Productions' Renen and Cel de Guia, Eric Teng of, Myrna Yao of RichPrime Global, Richard Sanz of Bibingkinitan, Chris Lim of the Philippine Franchise Association, Rhoda Caliwara of Palscon, and Marife Zamora of Filipina CEO Circle.

READ: AI and death: Sundance films grapple with digital afterlife

ARTIFICIAL intelligence promises to make death "optional" as the technology learns to perfectly emulate our personalities, memories and dreams, keeping a version of ourselves alive long after our physical bodies have perished. But if rapidly improving AI achieves its lofty goal of digital immortality — as its advocates believe it can — will it be a force for good or for evil? "Eternal You" and "Love Machina," two new documentaries that premiered at the Sundance movie festival this weekend, grapple with the question, exploring AI's relationship to death from very different perspectives. One examines how predatory AI-powered startups are already profiting from the vulnerability of bereaved customers, cashing in on their desperation to "speak to" avatars of their deceased loved ones beyond the grave.

Topping Business

READ: H1 cuts 'possible but maybe not likely'

POLICY rate cuts could start earlier than currently expected but monetary authorities will likely not act given continued inflation risks, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Eli Remolona Jr. said. Inflation eased to 3.9 percent in December but the full-year average was still above target at 6.0 percent. Analysts have warned that it could pick up in the next few months due to factors such as a stronger-than-expected El Niño and increased geopolitical tensions, with rate cuts only likely to start after the US Federal Reserve begins easing policy. Remolona said inflation was "within striking distance" given a "baseline" 2024 forecast of "around 4.0 or 4.2 percent," but added that "supply shocks may derail that forecast, including what's going on with rice ...". It was not immediately clear if the central bank had adjusted its baseline forecast for this year, previously said to be a within-target 3.7 percent.

READ: Lillard fires 45 to spark Bucks over Pistons

Damian Lillard scored a season-high 45 points and Giannis Antetokounmpo added 31 to lead the Milwaukee Bucks over NBA doormat Detroit 141-135 on Saturday (Sunday in Manila). Lillard, who arrived from Portland in a pre-season trade, had 11 assists and made 12-of-22 shots from the floor, 5-of-11 from 3-point range, and hit all 16 of his free throw attempts. Lillard became the first player in Bucks history with 40 or more points, 10 or more 10 assists and five 3-pointers in a single game and did so three nights after Milwaukee was thumped 135-95 at Cleveland. Greek star Antetokounmpo added 10 rebounds, nine assists, two steals and a blocked shot while Brook Lopez had 19 points and 10 rebounds for visiting Milwaukee. The Bucks improved to 29-13, moving within three games of NBA overall leader Boston for the Eastern Conference lead. Alec Burks scored 33 points off the bench, hitting 7-of-14 3-point shots, to lead Detroit, which fell to a league-worst 4-38.

READ: Djokovic, Sabalenka in ruthless form to reach AO quarters

Novak Djokovic was at his dominant best in a straight-sets demolition job to reach the Australian Open quarterfinals on Sunday, with Aryna Sabalenka and Coco Gauff in equally ruthless touch. The Serbian superstar recaptured his top form to surge into the last 16 after dropping sets in his opening two matches while feeling ill, and he stepped up another level against Adrian Mannarino. The French 20th seed, who at 35 is a year younger than Djokovic, has been enjoying a late career resurgence. But he was taught a lesson by the world No. 1, who won the first 13 games in powering through to the last eight of a Grand Slam for the 58th time, equaling Roger Federer's men's record. Defending women's champion Sabalenka has been in imperious form and was in complete charge against unseeded Amanda Anisimova on Margaret Court Arena, sweeping past the American 6-3, 6-2. Fourth seed Coco Gauff, attempting to become the first woman to back up a US Open title with a Grand Slam win in Australia since Naomi Osaka in 2018-19, has been almost as impressive.

READ: Opinion/Editorial

A new effort to nurse Laguna Lake back to health is today's editorial. Read the full version on print or digital or listen to the Voice of the Times. Rigoberto Tiglao, Fr. Ranhilio Aquino and Francisco Tatad are the featured columnists on the front page. Tiglao calls Sen. Jose "jinggoy" Estrada's conviction a watershed and is historic in building a real rule of law; Aquino on what the sanctity of human life means and Tatad on recognizing Taiwan.

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