Good day. Here are the stories for The Manila Times for Friday, March 22, 2024.

Today's episode is brought to you by Wilcon Depot, The Philippines' leading home improvement and construction supplies retailer—your Trusted Building Partner.

READ: Teves arrested in East Timor

EXPELLED Negros Oriental congressman Arnolfo Teves Jr. was arrested in Dili, East Timor Thursday while he was playing golf, the Department of Justice said. It said that Teves was arrested at the Top Golf Driving Range at around 4 p.m. He was placed under the custody of the Timorese Police while his extradition to the Philippines is being worked out by the National Central Bureau in Dili in coordination with the Philippine Embassy.

Get the latest news
delivered to your inbox
Sign up for The Manila Times newsletters
By signing up with an email address, I acknowledge that I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

READ: NFA sold P12-B rice sans bidding

FARMERS on Thursday said the National Food Authority sold millions of sacks of rice to private traders since 2019 without going through the bidding process, and said the improper sale early this year of 75,000 bags was just "the tip of the iceberg." In a statement, the Federation of Free Farmers said that in 2021, the N.F.A. sold about 5.6 million bags of rice, each weighing 50 kilos, to private buyers under the guise of disposing of aging stock. This accounted for about two-thirds of the total volume sold by the agency during the year, while the remaining portion was allocated to calamity assistance and relief operations, said F.F.F. National Manager Raul Montemayor. The farmers group added that in 2022, the N.F.A. sold 4 million sacks of rice to private traders, again claiming that these were aging stock. This comprised more than 70 percent of its total sales for that year.

READ: 'China biggest PH trading partner'

CHINESE Ambassador to Manila Huang Xilian said on Thursday that China is the Philippines' largest trading partner and has been so for eight consecutive years. The envoy said the Chinese and the Philippine economies are both "part of the global value, industrial, and supply chains." The ambassador said Chinese investments in the Philippines have also "maintained rapid growth," making China one of the country's largest sources of investment. He said that according to the 2023 report from the Philippine Statistics Authority, the Philippines' total import and export volume of foreign trade was about $200 billion, "a year-on-year decrease of 8 percent."

READ: Book reading declines sharply, survey shows

A NEWLY released independent national survey showed a notable decline in nonschool book readership among Filipino adults and children. Based on the results of the 2023 National Readership Survey (NRS), which was commissioned by the National Book Development Board (NBDB) and unveiled on Thursday, only 42 percent of Filipino adults, compared to 80 percent in 2017, and 47 percent of children compared to what in 2017. Nonschool books refer to books that are not directly related to academic activities or school requirements and are typically read for personal enjoyment, study, or information. They can include religious or devotional books, novels, stories, poems, fictional works, books about art, culture, and personal interests. The survey also showed that more Filipinos, both adults and children, prefer watching television as a leisure activity to sitting down and reading a book. The results of the 2023 NRS prompted the NBDB to call on policymakers, educators, community leaders, and stakeholders to give priority to readership and literacy initiatives. NBDB Chairman Dante "Klink" Ang 2nd said the survey should serve as a "call to action" and to ramp up efforts to boost reading among Filipinos.

READ: House sends RBH 7 to Senate

AFTER approving on third and final reading Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) 7, the House of Representatives on Wednesday night ordered that the resolution be immediately transmitted to the Senate. RBH 7, which contains amendments to certain economic provisions of the Constitution, was passed during plenary session with 288 lawmakers voting yes, eight voting no and two abstaining. Isabela 6th District Rep. Faustino "Inno" Dy 5th had moved for the transmittal to the Senate of RBH 7 along with House Bill 9710. House Bill 9710 seeks to revoke the legislative franchise of Sonshine Media Network International (SMNI). It hurdled third and final reading with 284 lawmakers voting for it, four against and four abstaining.

READ: QC declares pertussis outbreak

THE Quezon City government has declared a pertussis outbreak following the deaths of four infants. The city's Epidemiology and Surveillance Division said pertussis is a highly contagious respiratory infection caused by the bacterium bordetella pertussis. It is characterized by a cough persisting for two or more weeks, a mild fever and a runny nose. Pertussis is most contagious up to three weeks after the manifestation of coughing and other symptoms.

BUSINESS: BPI to unload GoTyme stake

Topping business, Ayala-led Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) has decided to sell a just-acquired stake in a digital bank GoTyme, citing a possible conflict of interest due to similar offerings. In a disclosure on Thursday, BPI said it would be selling its 15-percent interest in GoTyme Bank Corp. to GoTyme Financial Pte. Ltd and Giga Investment Holdings Pte. Ltd. for 902.46 million pesos. The asset sale will still have to be cleared by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), it added.

SPORTS: Mikey Arroyo calls for clean NGAP election

In sports, former Pampanga 2nd district representative Juan Miguel "Mikey" Arroyo is calling for a clean and smooth election in the National Golf Association of the Philippines since the integrity of not just the federation but the people in the forefront will be at stake. Arroyo, son of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, is seeking one of the 11 spots in the Board of Trustees, and hopes to eventually challenge two-term incumbent NGAP chief Martin Lorenzo for the group's leadership.

READ: Opinion and editorial

Francisco Tatad and Carl Balita are today's front page columnists. Tatad calls on legislators to go gently on land issues to foreigners, while Balita discusses raising the Alpha generation.

Today's editorial talks about the road map to the comeback of the Philippine coffee industry. Read the full version in the paper's opinion section or listen to the Voice of the Times.

For more news and information, read The Manila Times on print, subscribe to its digital edition or log on to Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and LinkedIn; and be part of our communities on Viber, Telegram, and Mastodon.