Good day. Here are the stories for The Manila Times for Thursday, February 1, 2024.

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BANNER: Duterte to Marcos: Let's take drug test

FORMER president Rodrigo Duterte has dared President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to undergo a drug test with him at Luneta Park in Manila as he insisted that the Chief Executive is a drug addict. Duterte issued the statement a day after Marcos blamed fentanyl for his predecessor's accusations in an expletive-filled speech in Davao City last Sunday. The Palace has not issued a statement as of press time. In a press conference in Davao City, Duterte said he was prescribed a fentanyl patch eight years ago after he underwent surgery due to a motorcycle accident.

President seeks simpler solution to Cha-cha plight

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President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Tuesday lamented how the people's initiative issue has sowed discord between the two houses of Congress, adding his administration is seeking simpler solutions to the Constitutional amendment quandary. Marcos is set to meet with leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives to resolve their disagreement on the people's initiative.

'Cracks' in Uniteam but President, VP still good – Sen. Marcos

THE Uniteam party of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Vice President Sara Duterte has "cracks," but the country's top two leaders are still good, the Chief Executive's older sibling said on Wednesday. Sen. Maria Josefa Imelda "Imee" Marcos made the remark on Wednesday when asked if the Marcoses and the Dutertes are still on good terms. Marcos and Duterte ran under the UniTeam banner in the 2022 presidential elections. Speaking in Filipino during a press conference on Wednesday, Senator Marcos said she thinks there are really "cracks," but the principals, referring to her brother and Duterte, were not "unruly."

PH growth target missed

THE Philippine economy expanded by a below-target 5.6 percent in 2023 as investments, household consumption and government spending slowed, Philippine Statistics Authority data showed on Wednesday. The result — markedly down from 2022's 7.6 percent and below the government's target range of 6.0 to 7.0 percent for last year — was widely expected. Fourth quarter growth was 5.6 percent, down from the previous quarter's upwardly revised 6.0 percent and the year-earlier 7.1 percent. It was slightly lower than the 5.7 percent median in a Manila Times poll of economists.

BUSINESS: National govt debt hits record P14.62T

THE national government's outstanding debt hit a new record high of 14.62 trillion pesos in 2023, the Bureau of the Treasury reported on Wednesday, with 1.2 trillion pesos having been added from a year earlier. Measured against the economy, which grew by 5.6 percent last year, the country's debt to gross domestic product ratio still improved to 60.2 percent from 2022's 60.9 percent. It was also below the targeted 61.2 percent in the medium-term fiscal framework, which the Treasury said was aligned with efforts to enhance debt sustainability. The government is aiming for a debt-to-G.D.P. ratio of less than 60 percent by 2025 and 51.1 percent by 2028. It also wants to trim the deficit-to-G.D.P. ratio to 3.0 percent by 2028 and keep infrastructure spending at 5 to 6 percent of G.D.P. per year.

SPORTS: Gilas can learn from Iran's cage program

Over to sports, Gilas Pilipinas' newly appointed team manager Richard del Rosario believes the Philippines can learn a lot from the success of the Iran men's national team's basketball program, which produced the likes of Asian cage stars Hamed Haddadi, Mehdi Kamrani and Nikkhah Bahrami. Del Rosario shared his thoughts after the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas named Barangay Ginebra mentor Tim Cone as the national squad's new head coach on Monday. Cone named the Gilas 12-man squad, which is a strong mix of youth and veteran international players led by Japan B.League Filipino imports Kai Sotto, A.J. Edu, Dwight Ramos and Carl Tamayo in the team, along with La Salle star and U.A.A.P. Season 86 Most Valuable Player Kevin Quiambao. The latest Gilas iteration also included six PBA stars led by seven-time league M.V.P. June Mar Fajardo and C.J. Perez of San Miguel, Scottie Thompson and Jamie Malonzo of Barangay Ginebra, Meralco's Chris Newsome and T.N.T. gunner Calvin Oftana, while Justin Brownlee has been designated naturalized player, pending FIBA's decision regarding his eligibility in upcoming tournaments.

Opinion and editorial

Antonio Contreras, Yen Makabenta and Danton Remoto are today's front page columnists. Contreras looks into those who have little faith in the country's democracy, Makabenta weighs in on the Senate hearing on a so-called People's Initiative for charter change, while Remoto compares airlines.

Today's editorial says a new warning on groundwater needs to be taken seriously. Read the full version in the paper's opinion section or listen to the Voice of the Times.

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