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SSS to refund up to 2 months’ worth of pension loan payments
The Social Security System (SSS) will extend relief to pensioners who paid their loan dues two years ago, with up to two months' worth of payments to be refunded starting Jan. 30. In a Jan. 20 circular, SSS president and chief executive Aurora Cruz-Ignacio said the policy-making Social Security Commission (SSC) last Jan. 12 approved the one-time, 60-day refund of monthly pension loan payments in line with the implementation of the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act or Bayanihan 2 Law in 2020. As such, the grace period applied to existing, current and outstanding pension loans when Bayanihan 2 took effect in September 2020, Ignacio said. October and November 2020 payments for loans ...Keep on reading: SSS to refund up to 2 months’ worth of pension loan payments
If she weren’t running for President, Robredo says she would vote for Pacquiao
MANILA, Philippines --- Vice President Leni Robredo on Saturday said she would vote for fellow aspirant Sen. Manny Pacquiao as President if she weren't running for the position herself. Robredo made the remark during Jessica Soho's Presidential Interviews aired on GMA-7. "Manny Pacquiao," Robredo said when asked who she would vote for among her fellow aspirants if she weren't running for President. "Kilala ko siya at alam ko na napaka-sinsero niyang tao," she added. je...Keep on reading: If she weren’t running for President, Robredo says she would vote for Pacquiao
LPA may enter PAR on Saturday, bringing cloudy skies, rains to Caraga, Eastern Visayas
MANILA, Philippines --- The low pressure area detected east of Mindanao will bring cloudy skies with scattered rain showers and thunderstorms to Caraga and Eastern Visayas on Sunday, the state weather bureau reported on Saturday. The LPA is detected 1,130 kilometers east of Mindanao as of 2 p.m., according to Raymond Ordinario, weather specialist of Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa). Ordinario said the LPA may enter the Philippine Area of Responsibility on Saturday night or Sunday morning. "Hindi natin nakikitaan ng potential na maging bagyo ang nasabing low pressure area," Ordinario said in a public weather forecast. (We...Keep on reading: LPA may enter PAR on Saturday, bringing cloudy skies, rains to Caraga, Eastern Visayas
‘Not slow or weak’: Mark Magsayo raring to show his worth vs Gary Russell Jr.
MANILA, Philippines---Gary Russell Jr. has held WBC World featherweight championship for nearly seven years but undefeated challenger Mark Magsayo believes he has what it takes to end that lengthy reign. In an interview with BoxingScene.com, Magsayo said he's better than Russell's former challenger Tugstsogt Nyambayar being more of a boxer than a brawler. "I'm a better fighter than Tug. I'm better than him, so I think Gary Russell, for me, he's not easy. It's gonna be a challenge for me to fight with him. But I'm different than Tug. He is just a brawler fighter. Me, I know how to box. I can adjust in the middle of the fight," said Magsayo. The two have been respectful of each other ...Keep on reading: ‘Not slow or weak’: Mark Magsayo raring to show his worth vs Gary Russell Jr.
Nadine Lustre to those who claim she hasn’t moved on: ‘Naka-move on na kaming lahat’
Nadine Lustre clapped back at those who claim she is yet to move on from her ex-boyfriend James Reid after netizens linked her new dragon tattoo to the actor. Though not directly naming Reid, Lustre stressed that everyone has already moved on from her past relationship and encouraged others to do the same, as seen on her Twitter page yesterday, Jan. 21. The actress was responding to one @Desiree92758563 who said Lustre's ex-boyfriend was still in her mind, after she posted a tweet about "still living rent free in your heads." "[Because] no matter how you deny it, your ex is still living rent free in your head," the netizen said. "Wala talagang wow factor mga banat mo. Nak...Keep on reading: Nadine Lustre to those who claim she hasn’t moved on: ‘Naka-move on na kaming lahat’
No need to say sorry, Pacquiao tells woman who slammed ‘no vaxx, no ride’ policy
Presidential candidate and former boxing champion Manny Pacquiao on Friday said there is no need for Gemma Parina, an unvaccinated street vendor, to apologize for her outburst that went viral online because of the "no vaccine, no ride" policy of the government. "Ipinahayag lang po ni Aling Gemma ang saloobin ng milyong mahihirap na kababayan natin na pinarurusahan sa halip na kumbunsihin para magpabakuna," Pacquioa said. (Aling Gemma was just expressing the grievance of millions of poor people who are unvaccinated, who should be encouraged to get vaccinated instead of being punished.) Pacquiao had earlier opposed the policy of prohibiting the unvaccinated from using public trans...Keep on reading: No need to say sorry, Pacquiao tells woman who slammed ‘no vaxx, no ride’ policy
NBA fines Knicks $25,000 over Julius Randle media snub
The NBA fined the New York Knicks $25,000 on Friday for failing to make Julius Randle available to the media after the Knicks' 102-91 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans. The league's statement said the Knicks were fined "for violating league rules governing media interview access." Randle scored just four points in Thursday's defeat. He was just one of the Knicks starters to struggle, with teammates Evan Fourier and Kemba Walker combining for 11 points. But it was another low point for Randle, who was fined $25,000 by the league this month for using profanity when explaining why he gave a "thumbs down" signal to home spectators who were booing the Knicks in a game against Bost...Keep on reading: NBA fines Knicks $25,000 over Julius Randle media snub
PBA player Kevin Ferrer, wife get married anew in church ceremony
MANILA, Philippines---More than two months after their wedding, Kevin Ferrer and wife MM Belarmino celebrated their union in a church ceremony Friday. Ferrer posted an Instagram Story of a the newly weds showing off their rings. Current and former teammates Jonathan Gray, Ed Daquioag, Cedric Labingisa, and Aljon Mariano also shared videos of the Ferrer wedding on their Instagram accounts. Ferrer and Belarmino have been a couple since their days at University of Santo Tomas where the 6-foot-4 forward became one of the school's top players in the middle part of the 2010s. A two-time champion with Ginebra, Ferrer proposed to Belarmino on Valentine's Day 2021 and had their civil ceremo...Keep on reading: PBA player Kevin Ferrer, wife get married anew in church ceremony
Belle Mariano recalls how karaoke helped fulfill dream to be a singer
Belle Mariano looked back at how singing karaoke helped turn her dream to be a singer into a reality, as she prepares to take on her first-ever concert, "Daylight." The actress briefly recounted her singing sessions with friends, which helped in "discovering" her talent, as seen on the virtual media conference for "Daylight" on ABS-CBN Star Music's YouTube channel last Thursday, Jan. 20. According to host DJ Jhaiho, Mariano was "accidentally" discovered to be a good singer, thanks to her friends and fellow artists who sang karaoke with her. "Alam talaga nila na kumakanta ako. Let's say kapag bibisitahin ko sila sa houses nila or ano, nagkakantahan kami. Feeling ko doon din n...Keep on reading: Belle Mariano recalls how karaoke helped fulfill dream to be a singer
PH logs 30,552 new COVID-19 cases — DOH
MANILA, Philippines --- The Philippines on Saturday reported 30,552 cases of COVID-19, bringing the total caseload to 3,387,524, the Department of Health (DOH) reported. Of the total number of cases, 280,619 or 8.3 percent of all infections are still tagged as active cases, but most of them only have mild or no symptoms at all at 98.3 percent. DOH said of the 30,552 reported cases today, 28,926 or 95 percent occurred within the recent 14 days. Most of the cases were from Region 4A with 5,991 or 21 percent of all cases; Metro Manila came at a close second at 5,989 or 21 percent of all infections. There are 41,471 new reported recoveries, pushing the total of those who surv...Keep on reading: PH logs 30,552 new COVID-19 cases — DOH
‘About time’: Steph Curry relishes first career game-winning buzzer-beater
Stephen Curry hit the first buzzer-beating game-winner of his illustrious NBA career on Friday, draining a step back jumper to lift Golden State to a 105-103 victory over the Houston Rockets. Curry, the smooth shooter who this season broke the league's all-time record for three-pointers, was clearly thrilled to add another scoring achievement to his resume. "About time!" Curry told an on-court TV interviewer. "That's my first one!" https://twitter.com/NBA/status/1484765455395008513 Curry scored 22 points, but for much of the night there was frustration for him and his Warriors teammates, who trailed Western Conference stragglers Houston by as many as 15 points. A day a...Keep on reading: ‘About time’: Steph Curry relishes first career game-winning buzzer-beater
Comelec challenges presidential, VP bets: Participate in debates
MANILA, Philippines --- Presidential and vice presidential aspirants should participate in debates as a commitment to the electorate, Commission on Elections (Comelec) spokesperson James Jimenez said on Saturday. "Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates should commit, to the public whose votes they seek, that they will participate in the #PiliPinasDebates2022," Jimenez said in a Twitter post. https://twitter.com/jabjimenez/status/1484745209238155267 This, despite the fact that political aspirants are not required to participate in debates. "Under the law, participation in debates is not mandatory... We cannot force them to join the debate," Jimenez then said over ABS-CB...Keep on reading: Comelec challenges presidential, VP bets: Participate in debates
DOLE to start accepting applications for P5,000 cash aid on Jan. 24
MANILA, Philippines --- The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) will start accepting on Monday applications for the P5,000 cash aid for private sector workers affected by the imposition of Alert Level 3 or higher, one of its officials said Saturday. "Starting Monday, January 24, tayo ay magsisimula nang mag-accept ng applications para sa P5,000 financial assistance doon sa mga naapektuhan ng Alert Level 3 at pataas," Labor Assistant Secretary Dominique Tutay said in an interview with DZBB. (Starting Monday, January 24, we will start accepting applications for the P5,000 financial assistance for workers affected by Alert Level 3 or higher.) "Para lamang po ito sa mga mangga...Keep on reading: DOLE to start accepting applications for P5,000 cash aid on Jan. 24
Rafael Nadal doubted ‘every single day’ whether he would return
MELBOURNE---Spaniard Rafa Nadal admits he had doubts "every single day" about whether he would ever return after missing the second half of 2021 because of a foot injury. The 35-year-old looked in prime form as he beat Karen Khachanov on Friday to reach the Australian Open fourth round, just weeks after a resuming competitive action. It kept him on course for a men's record 21st Grand Slam singles title, but Nadal says he is just happy to be back competing after the dark days of last year. https://twitter.com/AustralianOpen/status/1484504859206635529 "I mean, everybody around me, me included, had a lot of doubts. Not about the Australian Open, no, but about coming back on...Keep on reading: Rafael Nadal doubted ‘every single day’ whether he would return
Jessica Soho biased? No, she’s just doing her job, says Lacson
MANILA, Philippines --- Presidential aspirant Sen. Panfilo "Ping" Lacson on Saturday disputed accusations that Jessica Soho is "biased," saying it is her job to ask tough questions. Lacson's remarks were in response to the camp of Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. who claimed that the veteran television host is "biased" against him, which is why he refused to participate in the GMA Network interview for presidential aspirants. "Jessica Soho, biased?... I don't think so. Like any journalist, trabaho niya yun (That's her job)," he said in a Twitter post. Lacson said he himself was asked tough questions. https://twitter.com/iampinglacson/status/1484758304312393729 "I was asked ...Keep on reading: Jessica Soho biased? No, she’s just doing her job, says Lacson
NBA: Ja Morant nets 38 points as Grizzlies hold off Nuggets
Ja Morant scored 38 points, De'Anthony Melton had 21 points and nine rebounds, and the visiting Memphis Grizzlies beat the Denver Nuggets 122-118 on Friday night. Jaren Jackson Jr. had 20 points and four blocks and Ziaire Williams scored 17 for the Grizzlies. Memphis played without Dillon Brooks (ankle) and Desmond Bane (health and safety protocol). Nikola Jokic had 26 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds for his fourth straight triple-double and 11th of the season. Will Barton scored 27 points and added eight assists, Monte Morris finished with 17 points, Aaron Gordon produced 16 points and nine assists, and Jeff Green had 15 points for Denver. Bryn Forbes, acquired Wednesday...Keep on reading: NBA: Ja Morant nets 38 points as Grizzlies hold off Nuggets
Isko Moreno orders Manila police to crackdown on makers, sellers of fake medicine
Manila Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso has directed the Manila Police District (MPD) to crackdown on those behind the production of fake medicines that endanger the lives of Filipino consumers, especially the poor who rely on cheap drugs like paracetamol. Moreno's directive came after operatives of the Special Mayor's Reaction Team (SMaRT) arrested Monique Gamboa, an online seller of fake medicines that were supposedly manufactured by Unilab. SMaRT is under the leadership of Police Lt. Col. Rosalino Ibay Jr. After a test-buy was set up by SMaRT operatives in Sta. Cruz, Manila, Gamboa yielded 18,000 tablets of Bioflu and a box of Neozep tablets amounting to P1.1 million. Criminal cha...Keep on reading: Isko Moreno orders Manila police to crackdown on makers, sellers of fake medicine
Leody de Guzman says he’s not invited to GMA-7 interview of presidential hopefuls
MANILA, Philippines --- Presidential aspirant and labor leader Ka Leody de Guzman on Saturday said he was not invited to Presidential Interviews of GMA 7 News and Public Affairs hosted by Jessica Soho. Despite this, De Guzman will have a Facebook live stream on the official page of Partido Lakas ng Masa as the party's standard-bearer. "Dahil hindi ako naimbitahan sa Presidential Interviews ni Jessica Soho at ng GMA News & Public Affairs, ako ay magkakaroon ng FB Live mamaya para sagutin ang mga tanong na ibabato sa ibang kandidato para maipresenta ko sa publiko ang aking mga pananaw, tindig at plataporma," he said in a statement. (Since I was not invited to the President...Keep on reading: Leody de Guzman says he’s not invited to GMA-7 interview of presidential hopefuls
NBA: Rudy Gobert shakes off injury, lifts Jazz over Pistons
Rudy Gobert scored a season-high 24 points and grabbed 14 rebounds while Bojan Bogdanovic logged 23 points as the Utah Jazz earned a 111-101 win over the Detroit Pistons on Friday night in Salt Lake City. Gobert was questionable to play earlier in the day because of ankle soreness, but the three-time Defensive Player of the Year made 8 of 11 field-goal attempts and blocked four shots to help the Jazz pick up a much-needed win. Utah, which again played without Donovan Mitchell (concussion protocol), had lost two straight games, six of seven overall and three consecutive at home. That rough stretch included a 126-116 defeat at Detroit on Jan. 10, when the Jazz blew a 22-point lea...Keep on reading: NBA: Rudy Gobert shakes off injury, lifts Jazz over Pistons
Around 300 arriving Filipinos test positive for COVID-19 per day — BOQ
https://youtu.be/DquIfH3XsTs MANILA, Philippines --- Around 300 overseas Filipinos per day test positive for COVID-19 upon arrival to the Philippines, the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) said Saturday. BOQ Deputy Director Roberto Salvador Jr. noted that this is 10 percent of the around 3,000 arrivals to the country per day. "Tumatanggap ang BOQ ng [positive] result ng RT-PCR ng mga galing sa ibang bansa ng at least 300 per day. Ganun kadami ang sineserbisyuhan ng BOQ every day," he said at the Laging Handa public briefing. (The BOQ receives at least 300 [positive] RT-PCR test results from arriving travelers per day. That's how many the BOQ is rendering services for per day.) "S...Keep on reading: Around 300 arriving Filipinos test positive for COVID-19 per day — BOQ
- Agence France-Presse
Twitter suspends hundreds of accounts promoting Marcos

TWITTER has suspended hundreds of accounts reportedly linked to supporters of Philippine presidential frontrunner Ferdinand Marcos Jr, which the social media giant said had violated its rules on manipulation and spam.

The son and namesake of the country's former dictator is drawing support from a massive social media campaign seeking to get him elected in May, which critics say is attempting to rewrite the family's history.

Twitter said it had reviewed the accounts and hashtags identified in a recent article by Philippine news site Rappler.

More than 300 accounts had been removed "for violating our platform manipulation and spam policy," Twitter said in a statement sent to AFP Saturday.

Most of them had been taken down before the Rappler article was published on Tuesday and an investigation was ongoing, it said.

Filipinos are among the world's heaviest users of social media and the country has become a key battleground for fake news.

"With the Philippine elections taking place this May, we remain vigilant about identifying and eliminating suspected information campaigns targeting election conversations," Twitter said.

Marcos Jr's spokesman Vic Rodriguez said there was "no certainty" that all the suspended accounts belonged to supporters of the presidential hopeful.

Election victory for Marcos Jr would mark the ultimate political comeback for the family, which was chased into exile in the United States after its patriarch's humiliating downfall in 1986.

Marcos Sr and his wife Imelda were accused of massive corruption while in power.

Recent voter surveys show Marcos Jr holding a huge lead over his nearest rival and nemesis Leni Robredo, who is the incumbent vice president.

The accounts pushed the narrative that the Marcoses were "victims" of the 1986 revolt and their return to Malacanang presidential palace is "long overdue", it added.

Twitter said sharing political content on an account or rallying people do so via hashtags was allowed, "unless the accounts are inauthentic, compensated or automated, which we see no clear evidence of in this case."

Last Monday, the social media giant said it was expanding a test feature that will allow users in Brazil, Spain and the Philippines to report misleading content.

- Catherine S. Valente
Phaseout of travel quarantine urged

PRESIDENTIAL Adviser for Entrepreneurship Jose Maria "Joey" Concepcion 3rd is proposing the gradual lifting of Covid-19 quarantine restrictions for arriving international travelers once the Omicron-driven surge subsides.

In his remarks during the Go Negosyo's Booster to the Max town hall meeting on Friday, Concepcion said phasing out facility-based quarantine for international arrivals and shifting to home-based quarantine would help the country's the tourism and airline sectors recover faster.

He said countries like Thailand and Switzerland have done away with mandatory quarantine on arrival in a move to attract more travelers.

"We are not also suggesting that we implement the 'no quarantine' immediately. What I am proposing to our IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease) members is a gradual move toward the removal of quarantine in the Philippines, and moving towards home quarantine rather than facility-based quarantine," Concepcion said.

He said quarantining did not help the country keep out Covid-19 variants such as Delta and Omicron.

"My own view is that it has not actually helped us in preventing Delta or Omicron from entering the country. You can see in two weeks time, Omicron has swamped the NCR (National Capital Region) and basically, if we look at the positivity rate in the Philippines and America, it's about the same," he said.

The country requires arriving travelers to present a negative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test result and undergo facility-based quarantine.

"The entry requirements are so extensive and complicated that they put the country out of the reach of international visitors, and even our returning kababayans," Concepcion said.

"I think it's about time to really move on. I think we will definitely be left behind if we remain stagnant, you know, in what we're doing," he added.

Concepcion said he also recommended to the IATF allowing negative antigen test results as a travel requirement for arrivals.

"I thought the idea of antigen test prior to departure within 24 hours is good enough to provide comfort," he said.

Although antigen tests are less sensitive than the gold standard RT-PCR, they can still accurately reveal if a person infected with the virus is contagious.

An antigen test "may not be as perfect as an RT-PCR" test, but an RT-PCR test taken too early or too late "may also not be effective," Concepcion said, adding that a negative antigen result is now accepted in the United States.

"In our case when we leave America, we need to take an RT-PCR test 48 hours prior to departure. That is a bit of concern because the RT-PCR testing capacity here is at the maximum capacity, so some Filipinos going home may have a problem trying to get an appointment for this RT-PCR test," he said.

Concepcion said the country could not continue isolating itself from the rest of world and restricting the movement of the public.

"We can't continue to lock ourselves out from the world," he said. "Other countries seem to have already accepted the fact that Covid is here to stay. Maybe it's time we practice living with Covid or else the Philippine economy will suffer and along with it, its MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises)."

During the same event, testing czar Vivencio Dizon agreed with Concepcion, saying "we also need to have a dramatic change in mindset."

Protecting the community from the virus is a responsibility of an individual and not just the government's or the private sector's, Dizon said.

Another town hall participant, OCTA Research fellow Fr. Nicanor Austriaco said it was highly unlikely that a more vicious variant of the virus would appear.

"Omicron has significantly constrained the mutational landscape of future variants," Austriaco said. He cited a paper by the University of Michigan and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology published last December likening Omicron to a key that has been changed too much and as a result has become less effective at opening a lock.

Austriaco said a study published in the scientific journal Nature sees Covid eventually becoming like the common flu, with only the vulnerable requiring vaccinations and mitigation measures.

"It is time to move from crisis to control, from fear to responsibility," he said.

The experts from OCTA, who have been tracking the progress of the pandemic, agreed that recent numbers follow the trend in South Africa, where a rapid surge was followed by a dramatic drop in infections.

OCTA Research Fellow Dr. Guido David also reported that the NCR had 9,445 new Covid-19 cases last January 20.

He pointed out that the last time the region had less than 10,000 cases in one day was January 5, when the surge was still accelerating.

On January 20, a negative weekly growth rate was recorded for the first time since December 24, 2021.

"The NCR is still averaging over 13,000 new cases per day, which puts it at critical risk. We cannot let our guard down and must continue to follow health protocols to sustain the downward trajectory of new cases in NCR," David said.

He forecast around 2,000 cases a day in the NCR by the end of January, slipping to around 1,000 before Valentine's Day, and to less than 500 by end-February.

David advised against lowering alert levels until the region achieves moderate-risk classification.

Austriaco, however, believes that if the downtrend is sustained, Metro Manila could revert to the less strict Alert Level 2 by February.

He said that the metric that must be closely monitored is hospital occupancy, which has also been dropping for the past week.

"Thankfully, it does not look like our hospitals experienced the tragic and crushing numbers of Covid-19 positive patients that we witnessed during the Delta surge last August and September," Austriaco said.

He said what is happening in Metro Manila should give an indication of what will likely happen in the provinces, many of which are in the throes of an Omicron wave.

"For example, Cebu City is about 10 days behind the NCR. If the trends in Cebu resemble the trends in Metro Manila — which is reasonable to expect given similar demographic profiles — we would expect the Omicron surge to peak there in about a week and a half," he said.

Dr. Rontgene Solante, a member of the government Vaccine Expert Panel, outlined several treatments already available for Covid-19 patients, including antivirals and monoclonal antibodies.

It is important to administer these treatments at the right time, and caution against their use without the advice of medical professionals, he said.

On Thursday, the Department of Health (DoH) logged 31,173 new Covid-19 cases, bringing active cases to 275,364.

Total recoveries jumped to 2,995,961, or 90.1 percent of the total caseload of 3,324,478, after reporting 26,298 new recoveries.

The death toll stood at 53,153 with the addition of 110 new fatalities.

- Mayvelin U. Caraballo

THE Senate has been urged by a number of organizations to approve the Philippine membership in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which they believe will provide the country with a wide variety of economic benefits.

The Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines, Makati Business Club, Management Association of the Philippines and Philippine Council for Foreign Relations, said in a statement on Friday that RCEP is the world's largest economic bloc in history.

They went on to say that it has 15 member economies that combined account for 30 percent of the world's population and global gross domestic product.

"As such, it is a huge market that Filipino producers would gain preferential access to via membership in RCEP," the associations noted.

They also said that the RCEP presents the Philippines with a wide range of economic opportunities, as well as certain risks to uncompetitive industries, as well as individual producers and their workers.

"And like in the other free trade agreements the country has joined, the overall economic gains in terms of net job creation, economic growth and price stabilization will well outweigh the costs," the groups stressed.

It is pointed out that the RCEP will assist MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises) in broadening their market access, particularly by allowing more liberal rules of origin on traded goods in order to qualify for trade subsidies. Through enhanced trade facilitation, particularly customs and trade clearance procedures, it will also give a wider range of lower-cost inputs and lower company costs.

Exclusion from the bloc, the groups warned, would be extremely costly to the economy and the Filipino people in terms of exports to RCEP nations, which now account for nearly two-thirds or 64 percent of the country's total exports.

"It would also make us even more unattractive to job-creating investments than we already are, as these would best locate in RCEP member countries to take advantage of free access to its vast market," they added.

To that end, the groups emphasized that the Philippines' inclusion in the bloc might help to attract more foreign investment from companies looking to produce and sell to the enormous RCEP market.

"RCEP skeptics should find comfort in the fact that little will immediately change in the country's trade relations, since RCEP only reaffirms existing trade concessions we already have with all RCEP members via the Asean Trade in Goods Agreement," they also said.

- Dexter A. See

BAGUIO CITY: Three Cordillera provinces were placed under Alert Level 4 by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) from January 21 to 31, following the surge in Covid-19 cases.

Ifugao, Kalinga and Mountain province will be under Alert Level 4, while Apayao, Benguet and Baguio City will remain under Alert Level 3. Abra, however, will still be under Alert Level 2 up to the end of the month based on the latest classification issued by the IATF-EID.

The latest alert level classification for the Cordillera provinces prompted the local chief executives to issue corresponding community quarantine restrictions in their respective areas of jurisdiction.

Mountain Province Gov. Bonifacio Lacwasan Jr. said that travel will still be allowed for everyone, except for those below 18 years old, above 65 years old with comorbidities, and pregnant women.

However, he clarified that minors and those belonging to the vulnerable sectors of the population are allowed access to essential goods and services. They are also allowed to report for work in industries and offices permitted to operate.

He said that fully vaccinated individuals are allowed for point-to-point travel, staycations and outdoor exercises, provided the minimum public health standards and precautions such as the wearing of masks and the observance of physical distancing are strictly observed.

Meanwhile, Lacwasan stipulated that some activities are not allowed in the province as well as gatherings in individual residences not belonging to the same household.

The governor said that establishments that are allowed to operate will be allowed up to a maximum of 10 percent of their venue capacity for fully vaccinated individuals and 30 percent outdoor venue capacity, provided they have been issued a safety seal certification.

Meanwhile in Kalinga, Tabuk City Mayor Darwin Estrañero issued an advisory stating that persons younger than 18 years old, older than 65 with comorbidities, and pregnant women must stay at home.

He said that exercises will be allowed for persons not under the stay-at-home orders.

For dining establishments and restaurants, al fresco dining will be allowed up to a maximum of 30 percent of venue capacity while indoor dining will be up to 10 percent of maximum venue capacity.

The mayor said that barbershops, beauty salons, nail and hair spas will be allowed to render outdoor service at a maximum of 30 percent venue capacity and 10 percent for indoor setting for fully vaccinated persons with the condition that all workers shall also be fully vaccinated.

Religious gatherings shall also be allowed with a maximum capacity of 30 percent for outdoor setting and 10 percent for indoor setting provided that religious ministers and members are fully vaccinated.

- Catherine S. Valente,Christian Crow Maghanoy
PDP-Laban wing backs Sara for VP

Updated at 12:14 am

A FACTION of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) has adopted Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio as its candidate for vice president for the May elections.

The faction of the ruling party led by Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi deferred announcing its choice for president, saying it was still screening the list of contenders, including Duterte-Carpio's running mate, Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.

Cusi also said on Friday the party Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD) headed by Duterte-Carpio.

The rival wing in PDP-Laban is supporting the presidential run of Sen. Emmanuel "Manny" Pacquiao.

Cusi said during a virtual press briefing his group chose Duterte-Carpio because "the quality of her advocacies and vision are strongly aligned with that of the party."

As vice president, Duterte-Carpio "will help ensure the continuity of the vital programs of the current administration which now constitute the legacy to our Nation of PDP Laban Chairman, President Rodrigo Duterte," the Cusi group said in a separate statement.

Cusi also said that Duterte's pick for president would also be considered in deciding who the group would support.

President Duterte, who chairs PDP-Laban, has called Marcos a "weak leader" and rejected an alliance with the parties that back him.

Pressed on what is preventing the faction from endorsing Marcos, Cusi said, "we still have to be convinced."

"It is not just a question of what you hear or what they say. What is important is what they do. Iyon ang importante kasi siyempre sa pulitiko ngayon lahat, pati langit, pati impyerno, ipapangako natin, pero ang kwan doon, ano ba talaga ang gagawin natin (That's what's important because politicians would promise voters heaven, even hell, but the question is what would we really do)? So, it's the credibility of the person," he said.

The Cusi group found itself without a standard-bearer after the President's close aide Sen. Christopher Lawrence "Bong" Go backed out of the race.

The Pacquiao wing used the Certificate of Nomination and Acceptance of an allied party to avoid complications in registering his candidacy with the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

Cusi said his group is not ruling out reconciling with the Pacquiao camp, but there are no talks toward that end at the moment.

He also said it was possible the group could end up not endorsing or adopting any presidential bet.

Cusi said an alliance with Lakas-CMD was still up in the air because of looming conflicts at the local level.

He said that because the deal was not struck before the deadline for the filing of candidacies, some provinces, cities, and towns could have Lakas-CMD and PDP-Laban candidates running against each other.

"We're looking at how we are going to handle that. Of course, there is a framework of how we are going to address that," Cusi said.

He also said there are no talks for an alliance with Marcos' Partido Federal ng Pilipinas.

In a statement, Lakas-CMD thanked the leaders and members of PDP-Laban for endorsing Duterte-Carpio.

"Mayor Inday Sara has been espousing unity and cohesion for a better Philippines under the BBM-Sara UniTeam alliance that includes Partido Federal ng Pilipinas (PFP) of presidential aspirant Bongbong Marcos, to which Lakas-CMD has been very supportive," Lakas-CMD said.

It added that it "is always open to alliances and partnerships with other parties and political groups which share our ideals and vision for the common good of the country."

In a related development, senatorial bet and former national police chief Guillermo Lorenzo Eleazar said "he is open" to the proposal of Duterte-Carpio to require military service for all Filipinos once they reach the age of 18.

"Maganda ang panukalang ito dahil bukod sa hindi natin alam ang maaring mangyari sa hinaharap, magsisilbi itong daan para sa komprehensibong training na kailangan ng bawat mamamayan lalo na sa disaster response na taon-taong nating kinakaharap (This measure is noteworthy because apart from the fact that we do not know what will happen in the future, it will serve as a way for the comprehensive training that every citizen needs especially in the disaster response that we face every year)," Eleazar said.

Eleazar, a candidate of the Partido Reporma, said he believes many youths are interested in experiencing military life as manifested by the popularity of online games about ancient and modern warfare like DOTA or Defense of the Ancients, Call of Duty CoD and Moba or Multi-player Online Battle Arena.

He, however, agreed with Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana that the proposal of Duterte-Carpio requires a lot of resources and manpower.

- Javier Joe Ismael
Bong Go lauds plan for Visayas Media Hub

SEN. Christopher Lawrence "Bong" Go expressed support for the Presidential Communications Operations Office's (PCOO) plan to create the Visayas Media Hub (VMH) as he emphasized the crucial role of the government to continue improving access to information across the country, especially outside Metro Manila.

Go also stressed the importance of empowering communities by enabling public access to vital information towards nation-building.

Initiated by PCOO and its attached government-owned and controlled corporation, People's Television Network, the VMH is set to be established in Barangay Subangdaku, Mandaue City in Cebu this year.

"Congratulations po sa PCOO dahil masisimulan na ang pagtatayo ng Visayas Media Hub. Kapag naitayo ito, mapapabilis na ang pagbibigay ng impormasyon na kailangan ng publiko, lalo na ng mga kapwa nating Bisaya (Congratulations to PCOO for the start of the establishment of the Visayas Media Hub. Once it is established, faster dissemination of information that the public need, especially by our fellow Visayans, will be realised)," Go stressed.

"Mula TV, print, radio, online, sisiguraduhin nating maiparating ng gobyerno ang tamang impormasyon at makabuluhang balita sa mga komunidad na kailangan upang maging mas ligtas at maginhawa ang buhay ng mga Pilipino tulad ng ipinangako ni Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte (From TV, print, radio, online, we will ensure that the government will be delivering the right information and meaningful news to the communities that is needed in order to have safe and prosperous lives for the Filipinos as promised by President Rodrigo Duterte)," he added.

Go was instrumental in pushing for the allocation of P300 million in the 2022 national budget for the construction of the state-of-the-art media facility that will boost the capacity of government media in Visayas.

Another P300 million budget was included in the PCOO's 2022 budget for the various equipment needed for the operations of the VMH.

The Department of Information and Communications Technology and the PCOO will enter into an usufruct agreement for the use of the former's Subangdaku lot in Mandaue City. Both agencies are also working closely for the detailed architectural and engineering design of the VMH.

Similar to the success of the Mindanao Media Hub (MMH) in Davao City, the VMH will be a world-class communications facility of the government in Cebu that will cater as the main broadcast hub of Regions 6 (Western Visayas), 7 (Central Visayas), and 8 (Eastern Visayas).

The VMH will be the second media hub of the PCOO outside Metro Manila after the MMH conducted its pilot live broadcast in December 2020.

Meanwhile, PCOO Secretary Martin Andanar thanked legislators for their support and Go's instrumental role in the provision of the budget for the VMH. He also assured the public transparency and accountability in the construction of the world-class facility.

Earlier, Go mentioned the public's increased demand for more access to information during these trying times. He is optimistic that, like the MMH, the VMH will significantly improve the quality of government communication and information services in the Visayas and the rest of the country.

Go also previously shared President Rodrigo Duterte's hopes that the PTV shall grow into the size and standard similar to the British Broadcasting Corp. with a transformational impact on the media sector towards building a more informed citizenry.

In the end, Go emphasized that his efforts to support and protect the welfare of communities in the Visayas will always be a priority.

- Agence France-Presse
Biden, Kishida to talk on security issues

This handout picture taken and released by the Japan's Cabinet Public Relations Office via Jiji Press shows Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (R) meeting with US President Joe Biden (L) during a virtual summit from prime minister's office in Tokyo on January 21, 2022. Handout / JAPAN'S CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS OFFICE VIA JIJI PRESS / AFP

WASHINGTON, D.C.: US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will discuss deterrence in the Asia-Pacific region and a "united" Western alliance against Russian threats to Ukraine in a virtual meeting Friday (Saturday in Manila), officials said.

Biden has made restoring the importance of the US-Japanese relationship a priority since taking office exactly a year ago, following Donald Trump's questioning of the benefit of US relationships with several major allies in both Asia and Europe.

Biden and Kishida will discuss economic ties but also security and the "free and open Indo-Pacific," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said, referring to the US-led drive to maintain the status quo in the Asia-Pacific region, despite rapidly expanding Chinese military and commercial power, including along crucial sea trade routes.

According to a senior US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, Biden considers US-Japanese ties "the cornerstone of peace and security in the Indo-Pacific and around the world."

In addition to discussing climate change, Covid-19, and cybersecurity, Biden and Kishida will focus on maintaining "a strong rules-based order" — language that typically means pushing back on China.

Another security challenge at the top of the two leaders' agenda is North Korea, which has conducted a busy schedule of missile test launches this year — in contravention of UN sanctions — and on Thursday suggested it could even resume nuclear and intercontinental missile tests.

The official noted Biden's focus on multilateral alliances, in contrast to Trump's attempt to rebrand US foreign policy as a series of bilateral relationships with countries that he considered as much competitors as allies.

The US official highlighted the roles of the Quad group — Australia, India, Japan and the United States — and the trilateral security relationship between the United States, Japan and South Korea, which he credited for "bolstering deterrence in the Indo-Pacific."

Underlining soaring tensions around Russia's build-up of a large military force on Ukraine's border, the US official said Biden and Kishida would "discuss a strong, united response that would result from further Russian aggression towards Ukraine."

Washington is seeking support from European and other allies for "severe" economic sanctions against Moscow if troops do attack Ukraine.

Biden hosted then-Japanese prime minister Yoshihide Suga as his first foreign leader in the White House, and after Kishida took office, Biden was the first foreign leader to place a call.

- Moises Cruz
Robredo: Good governance key to business growth

VICE President Maria Leonor "Leni" Robredo committed to create a more transparent, ethical and trustworthy government that will spur the growth of the business sector.

"How do we imagine a brighter future for our nation, for those who look to us for direction, strength, and hope? How do we move our country from a state of response and survival to one of growth and prosperity? " Robredo said during an open forum Friday, "Meet the Presidentiables: Economic Reforms in the New Frontier," organized by the Financial Executive Institute of the Philippines (Finex), the Federation of Filipino Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. (FFCCCII), Cignal, and The Manila Times, along with other organizations.

Robredo, who is running as an independent presidential candidate, expounded on her economic platform and underlined the significance of economic reform in addressing the issues the country faces.

She anchored her presentation on two strategies: the Kalayaan sa Covid Plan and the Hanapbuhay Para sa Lahat Jobs Plan.

The first set of policies is focused on the coronavirus and the health problems it has spawned, putting food on the table and improving the lives of Filipino children through education.

The second is a road map for increasing employment and livelihood opportunities, which includes releasing the potential of industries and revitalizing important aspects of the economy.

Robredo said she will establish "a government that listens, one that has nothing to hide and therefore engages and actively seeks feedback, which it then crafts into a consensus that considers all views."

Her administration will be guided by a moral compass and will work to win the trust of the people and make them feel they have someone to lean on in times of crises, she said.

"For the business community, it sends a very clear message that laws will be applied fairly, that our institutions are resistant to corruption, and that if vested interests try to game the system, the government has the will and strength to correct the situation and prosecute those who try to take advantage," Robredo said.

She reiterated one of her slogans, "Gobyernong Tapat, Angat Buhay Lahat" (Honest Government, Progress for All), that entails appointing people of good character, competence and integrity to government positions.

Robredo pledged to establish a National Competitiveness Council to bridge the gap between government and the business sector, as well as to develop and implement a plan to involve all stakeholders in making the nation more globally competitive.

"Under a more transparent, ethical and trustworthy government, the right national priorities necessarily open the gates to progress. My commitment to the business community: We will create an environment where enterprises have a chance to compete fairly. We will not fixate on restrictions, and your voice will be heard as we work for the common good, " she said.

Robredo made a final pitch by saying that "my track record is out there for all to see. You know how I work. You know what I believe in. You know my intentions. I have absolutely no doubt that our values and our dreams for the country align. I ask only that you consider all of these, my history as well as those of my fellow candidates', as you reflect and decide in the coming months."

- Agence France-Presse
Islamic State resurgence threatens Jalalabad

TERROR LINGERS In this photograph taken on Dec. 12, 2021, a Taliban member from the department of the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice speaks with a taxi rickshaw driver at a checkpoint along a street in Jalalabad. The Taliban promised to bring peace, but fear reigns above all in the eastern city of Jalalabad, hit by Islamic State group attacks and reprisals, and with corpses appearing mysteriously in rivers. AFP PHOTO

JALALABAD, Afghanistan: The Taliban promised to bring peace, but fear reigns above all in the eastern city of Jalalabad, hit by Islamic State group attacks and reprisals, and with corpses appearing mysteriously in rivers.

In the evening, the inhabitants of the trade hub in Afghanistan's Nangarhar province hurry home before night falls and the shooting starts, fearing both IS and the indiscriminate retaliation of the Taliban.

Once a fringe force in Afghanistan, analysts say the local chapter of IS has been increasingly active since the United States agreed to a deal in 2020 with the Taliban to withdraw foreign troops from the country.

The fundamentalist fighters, who are opposed to any compromise with the West, are believed to have about 2,000 to 4,000 fighters in Afghanistan, against 80,000 Taliban.

The biggest ideological difference between the two Islamist groups is that the Taliban sought only an Afghanistan free of foreign forces, whereas IS wants an Islamic caliphate stretching from Turkey to Pakistan and beyond.

The latter group was "strengthened" as the Taliban took control of the country and opened prisons, releasing many battle-hardened IS fighters, says Ibraheem Bahiss, an Afghanistan specialist at the International Crisis Group.

Since then, "violence against the Taliban has increased," even if they try to play it down, Bahiss says.

Different picture

At his headquarters guarded by dozens of heavily armed Taliban, the much-feared head of the Nangarhar intelligence services dismisses the threat.

Islamic State "no longer exists" in the city or rest of the province, says the official, who goes by the name "Dr. Bashir."

But in the streets of Jalalabad, his fighters paint a different picture.

"These days, there is at least one attack a week," said Sajjad, a Taliban unit leader, adding his men are on high alert "at all times."

The attackers, he told Agence France-Presse (AFP), "come in twos or threes...in a [motorized] rickshaw...and shoot at us with Kalashnikovs or pistols."

According to Abdul Sayed, an academic specializing in jihadist networks, the group is responsible for nearly 100 attacks since mid-September — some 85 percent aimed at the Taliban — and Jalalabad is the front line.

The bloodiest, however, was a suicide bomb blast at Kabul airport as tens of thousands of Afghans clamored to escape the country during a chaotic evacuation.

More than 200 people were killed in the August 26 attack, including 13 US service members.

The Taliban say they recently sent 1,500 fighters to reinforce Jalalabad.

"We are tracking down the jihadists day and night," said Sajjad.

Some 400 IS members have been arrested in recent months, says Dr. Bashir, although he adds he doesn't have a figure for those killed.

Dozens of corpses

The Taliban are accused of clandestinely eliminating their enemies, and the United Nations attributes at least 72 murders to them, including 50 suspected IS members in Nangarhar.

Macabre discoveries feed the suspicion — such as the bodies found last month along a canal in the suburbs of Jalalabad.

A little way from the village of Bakhtan, a rickshaw washer told AFP he had seen "four or five" corpses recovered. A local entrepreneur says three were found.

Several sources across the province say up to 150 bodies have been found in rivers and streams.

Nangarhar has a strong Salafist bent — an austere branch of Sunni Islam introduced to the area by Saudi jihadists such as Osama bin Laden during the war against the Soviet Union.

While Salafist elders do not deny the community has been a source of recruits for IS, they say they are now being collectively punished.

"Not all Salafists are members of the Islamic State," one elder told AFP.

"Very often, it is innocent people who are caught, and sometimes killed," says analyst Bahiss, who warns that this indiscriminate Taliban crackdown on Salafists risks strengthening rather than weakening IS.

And while he says IS does not yet have the capacity to operate beyond Afghanistan and Pakistan, "Western countries are watching the threat and taking it seriously."

In Jalalabad, the accusations against the Taliban have been silenced for fear of reprisals — especially since there is little evidence and the mutilated corpses are not always identifiable.

The Taliban are blamed for the killings, but few dare speak out — especially since the murder of activist Abdul Rahman Mawen in October.

"He was leaving a wedding, driving in Jalalabad with his two children, and armed men on a motorbike shot him dead," said a relative who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal.

While the attack was claimed by Islamic State, the relative has his doubts.

Local journalists are just as scared.

One posted on social media about an attack in Jalalabad, and shortly afterwards was visited by the Taliban.

"There would be no more warnings," he was told.

- Franz R. Sumangil
Comelec cancels Mangudadatu's CoC for governor

THE Commission on Elections' (Comelec) First Division, under Commissioner Maria Rowena Guanzon, has canceled the certificate of candidacy (CoC) of Datu Ali Pax Mangudadatu for governor of Sultan Kudarat.

The petition for lack of residency against Mangudadatu, the incumbent mayor of Datu Abdullah Sangki town in the province of Maguindanao, was filed by another gubernatorial candidate, Sharifa Akeel-Mangudadatu, and upheld by the Comelec on January 18.

"Let the records of the case be forwarded to the Law department of the Commission for the conduct of a preliminary investigation relative to the election offense aspect of this case," the Comelec said in the decision.

The Comelec also said a substitution for the candidate is not allowed because the CoC was canceled and not disqualified.

Commissioner Marlon Casquejo, a member of the First Division, issued a dissenting opinion on the decision.

The decision means a sure victory for Akeel-Mangudadatu as no other candidate is vying for the post.

Mayor Mangudadatu has yet to issue a statement on the ruling as of Thursday afternoon.

The petitioner, a former beauty queen, is the wife of Maguindanao Second District Rep. Esmael "Toto" Mangudadatu.

The mayor is the son of Maguindanao Gov. Bai Mariam Sangki-Mangudadatu and Sultan Kudarat Gov. Suharto "Teng" Mangudadatu, cousin of Rep. Mangudadatu.

The lawmaker, meanwhile, is challenging the reelection bid of his cousin's wife for governor of Maguindanao.

- Agence France-Presse
PH among 105 countries eyed for anti-Covid pill
Updated at 12:11 am

THE Philippines is among the 105 countries being considered for the more affordable version of Merck's anti-Covid pill in deals announced on Thursday by a UN-backed organization.

The global Medicines Patent Pool signed agreements with 27 manufacturers to produce the oral antiviral medicine molnupiravir, for supply in low- and-middle-income countries.

"This is a critical step toward ensuring global access to an urgently needed Covid-19 treatment and we are confident that... the anticipated treatments will be rapidly available in LMICs," said MPP Executive Director Charles Gore.

Other countries covered include some of the world's most heavily populated nations like India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Egypt.

Merck granted a license to the MPP in an agreement announced in October. The MPP, in turn, issued sub-licenses to the generic drugs makers, in agreements announced Thursday.

The sub-licenses allow manufacturers to produce the raw ingredients for molnupiravir, and/or the finished drug itself.

The companies involved are spread across Bangladesh, China, Egypt, Jordan, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Pakistan, South Africa, South Korea and Vietnam.

Five manufacturers will focus on producing the raw ingredients; 13 will produce both raw ingredients and molnupiravir itself; while nine will simply produce the finished drug.

In December, the US Food and Drug Administration regulator authorized molnupiravir for high-risk adults, a day after giving the go-ahead to a similar but more effective drug made by Pfizer.

Antivirals like molnupiravir and Pfizer's Paxlovid pill work by decreasing the ability of a virus to replicate, thereby slowing down the disease.

Merck's pill is taken within five days of symptom onset and was shown in a trial of 1,400 participants to reduce Covid hospitalizations and deaths by 30 percent among at-risk people.

Pfizer's pill reduced the same outcomes by almost 90 percent.

Merck, also called MSD outside the United States, jointly developed molnupiravir with the Miami-based company Ridgeback Biotherapeutics.

"Accelerating broad, affordable access to molnupiravir has been a priority for MSD from the start," said MSD's director for policy and government relations, Paul Schaper. "We are pleased to see this vision come to life."

Molnupiravir's creators will not receive sales royalties while Covid-19 remains classified as a public health emergency of international concern (Pheic) by the World Health Organization.

A Pheic is the highest alarm the WHO can sound and its emergency committee last week reconfirmed the pandemic's top-alert status.

After the Pheic ends, the royalties will be 5 percent of net sales for public sector purchases, and 10 percent of net sales for commercial entities.

The Geneva-based MPP is a United Nations-backed international organization that works to facilitate the development of medicines for low- and middle-income nations. AFP

- Xinhua News Agency
China, Germany to deepen cooperation

Photo taken on Dec. 21, 2021 shows the inside of the new Tiexi Plant of BMW Brilliance Automotive (BBA) in Shenyang, northeast China's Liaoning Province. Xinhua Photo

BEIJING: Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi held talks on Thursday with his new German counterpart Annalena Baerbock via video link, with the two sides vowing to deepen cooperation in various fields.

Wang said that China and Germany, as all-around strategic partners, should adhere to being a model of win-win cooperation, leaders in China-EU relations, promoters of a new type of international relations, and collaborators that transcend the differences in social systems.

Last year, bilateral trade reached a record high despite the impact of the epidemic, which fully demonstrates the complementarity of the two economies and the resilience of economic and trade relations between the two countries, Wang said.

China and Germany should jointly create new highlights of cooperation in the fields of digital technology, communications, service trade, agricultural science and technology, as well as green development, Wang said, adding that China welcomes German companies to expand their investment in China.

Baerbock said the German side is committed to developing a stable partnership with China and will continue to pursue the one-China policy.

Taking the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations as an opportunity to deepen exchanges and cooperation between the two countries in various fields, Germany is willing to treat foreign companies in Germany, including Chinese companies, equally, Baerbock said.

The two sides agreed to hold proper celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations, prepare for the seventh round of intergovernmental consultations and give full play to the role of dialogue mechanisms at all levels.

On the basis of mutual respect, the two sides agreed to conduct equal dialogue on issues such as human rights and democracy, in order to enhance mutual understanding, further strengthen education, non-governmental and local exchanges, and carry out exchanges between more than 100 pairs of sister provinces, states and cities of the two countries through various means. They also agreed to enhance green development cooperation and deepen exchanges on addressing climate change and green governance.

The two sides exchanged views on strengthening cooperation on multilateral affairs and on the Iranian nuclear issue.

- Frederick Silverio

THE Provincial Government of Bulacan through the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office (PSWDO) on Thursday provided cash assistance, sacks of rice and emergency kits to 68 families affected by the January 9 fire in Tabing Ilog, Sitio Villarica, Barangay Poblacion, Sta. Maria, Bulacan.

PSWDO head Rowena Joson-Tiongson said each family received P15,000 cash, a cavan of rice, emergency kit, and other assistance from the Bulacan provincial government and a separate aid from Gov. Daniel Fernando.

Around 300 individuals were affected by the fire, Joson-Tiongson said.

Each family also received P5,000 from Fernando, who personally handed the aid to the fire victims on Thursday along with Board Member Alex Castro and representatives from the PSWDO.

Fernando said additional P10,000 will also be given to each family of victims and directed Joson-Tiongson to immediately process the papers for the release of said cash assistance.

Several tents were also provided by Chairman Renato Castro of Barangay Manggahan at the rice field nearby as temporary shelter for the fire victims.

The fire lasted for almost three hours before it was declared fire-out. No one was reported injured from the fire.

- Dexter A. See

LUBA, Abra: A woman died and five others were injured after a public utility jeepney fell on a ravine and landed on its roof in a river in Sitio Mapait, Barangay Poblacion here on Friday.

The fatality was identified as Dey Ann Biernes, 23, a resident of Barangay Supo, Tubo, Abra. She was rushed to the rural health unit (RHU) of Luba but was declared dead on arrival by the attending physician.

The injured victims were identified as Pixie Ann Biernes, 20, a resident of Barangay Supo, Tubo, Abra; Alberto Dogayan, 61, of Barangay Tiempo, Tubo; March Baltazar, 59, of Mayabo, Tubo; Joe Kanor, 48, of Mayabo, Tubo, Abra; and the driver Oliver Wilan, 39, of Tubo, Abra.

All of them were given first aid on site and brought to Luba RHU.

According to the report, the jeepney was traversing the Luba-Manabo Road in Barangay Poblacion when it met another vehicle coming from the opposite direction.

The passenger jeepney tried to give way, but the driver lost control of the vehicle which fell on the ravine and landed on its roof on the stony area of the river.

Responding police and concerned residents rescued the victims and rushed them to the nearest rural health center for medical attention.

- Xinhua News Agency
China deplores US warship's trespassing

Aerial photo taken on April 23, 2017 shows the Jinqing Island of Yongle Islands, located in the Xisha Islands, in south China's Hainan Province. Xinhua Photo

BEIJING: A Chinese military spokesman on Thursday called the trespassing of a US warship into China's territorial waters a serious provocation.

Earlier in the day, the US missile destroyer USS Benfold sailed into waters off the Xisha Islands in the South China Sea without permission from the Chinese government.

Wu Qian, spokesman for China's Ministry of National Defense, said this is not "freedom of navigation" as claimed by the United States but an act that has violated China's sovereignty and undermined the peace and stability of the South China Sea.

Wu said the People's Liberation Army has dispatched air and naval forces to monitor the US warship and warn it off.

"The Chinese military strongly deplores and resolutely opposes the US act," he said, adding that the US military warship's hegemonic behaviors cannot be tolerated in China's territorial waters.

Wu urged the US side to understand the situation clearly and stop provocation.

The Chinese military will take all necessary measures to respond to any threats and provocations, and will resolutely protect China's sovereignty and security and safeguard regional peace and stability, he said.

- Kaithreen Cruz
Anti-jab Filipinos drop to 8% – SWS

Updated at 12:08 am

FILIPINOS' skepticism on getting vaccinated against the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) continued to wane as only 8 percent of the adult population remain unwilling to get vaccinated, the fourth quarter survey of the Social Weather Stations (SWS) showed.

Compared to May 2021 when the SWS first asked respondents about their willingness to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, the 8 percent recorded in December 2021 was 25 percent lower than the 33 percent in May.

Unwillingness to receive the vaccine continued to decline at 21 percent in June 2021, down to 18 percent in September 2021.

The percentage of those unwilling to get vaccinated fell in all areas in the country, with 4 percent in Metro Manila, 8 percent each in Balance Luzon and Mindanao, and 15 percent in the Visayas from the May 2021 results at 30 percent each in Metro Manila and Mindanao, 34 percent in Balance Luzon, and 38 percent in the Visayas.

Similarly, it also dwindled among all education levels to 4 percent each for college and high school graduates, 14 percent for elementary graduates, and 20 percent for non-elementary graduates.

According to the pollster, unwillingness to receive the vaccine also showed a decline to single-digit level in all age groups, except those 55 years old and above with 14 percent.

Skepticism to get their Covid-19 jabs was at 5 percent for those 25 to 34 years old, 6 percent each for those 18 to 24 and 35 to 44 years old, and 8 percent for those 45 to 54 years old.

"As in past surveys, the percentage of those unwilling to get the Covid-19 vaccine tends to be higher among the older age groups," the SWS said.

Moreover, the survey also revealed that 50 percent of respondents have already received at least one dose of the vaccine — consisting of 38 percent reporting to have received two doses, while the rest received one dose.

It also showed that 33 percent of those unvaccinated said they will "surely" get vaccinated while 3 percent said they will "probably" get vaccinated.

Eighty-one percent of those in Metro Manila reported that they have received at least one dose of the vaccine, while it was at 52, 40 and 37 percent, respectively, for Balance Luzon, Mindanao and the Visayas.

The SWS conducted face-to-face interviews among 1,440 adult respondents nationwide from Dec. 12 to 16, 2021, when the daily average of new Covid-19 cases was around 300.

Results of the survey have a ±2.6 percent sampling margin of error for national percentages, and ±5.2 percent for sub-national percentages in Metro Manila, Balance Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao.

The pollster maintained that the survey was noncommissioned and results were released as public service.

- Xinhua News Agency
Chinese give govt high trust approval

CHICAGO: The level of trust among Chinese citizens in their government reached 91 percent, whereas this index for US citizens is only 39 percent, the 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer released on Tuesday showed.

The 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer is the 22nd annual trust and credibility survey conducted by Edelman, the world's largest global public relations consultancy firm.

Powered by Edelman Data & Intelligence and consisting of 30-minute online interviews conducted on November 1-24 last year, this survey has 36,000 respondents from 28 countries.

Of all the four categories the barometer covers, namely business, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), government and media, the trust index of Chinese citizens increased, while that of US citizens fell. Overall, the trust index of Chinese increased 11 points to 83 while that of Americans fell 5 points to 43.

Focusing on China, the Edelman report cited several internal and external factors to explain why popular support was so high in the past year.

According to its analysis, China was the first major economy to reopen and thrive after the Covid-19 outbreak. It was the only major economy to see growth in 2020 with that momentum continuing throughout most of 2021.

Moreover, the Chinese government made progress in other areas in 2021, such as the fight against pollution and its anti-corruption campaign, according to the report.

- Rhaydz B. Barcia

LEGAZPI CITY: Mayor Antonio Alindogan of Juban town in Sorsogon province was put behind bars for trafficking charges on Thursday with no bail recommended.

The 63-year-old Alindogan, who is serving his last term as municipal mayor of Juban, was locked up in jail after Judge Zach Zaragoza-Ziga of the Family Court Fifth Judicial Region, Branch 12, Sorsogon City issued the warrant of arrest on Thursday.

Alindogan, a resident of Barangay Tughan, voluntarily surrendered on Thursday at about 12:10 p.m. before the municipal police station after the warrant for his arrest had been issued.

Alindogan was charged for the crime of Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003 Sec. 4A in relation to Sec.6A and 6D of Republic Act (RA) 9208 as amended by RA 10364 or the "Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2012."

The town mayor is facing three counts of trafficking charges docketed under criminal case number 2021-12164 C, 2021-12165 C, 2021-12166, issued by Zaragoza-Ziga.

This is the first time that a municipal mayor in Bicol was put in jail for anti-trafficking charges. Alindogan is now detained at Juban Municipal Police Station.

Alindogan served as mayor of Juban for nine years. His term of office is set to end on June 30.

His wife, Gloria, is running for the mayoral post in Juban under the Nationalist People's Coalition.

She is going up against Maria Teresa Fragata of the United Nationalist Alliance.

- Agence France-Presse
Crashed World War 2 aircraft found in India

FINALLY FOUND This undated handout photograph released on Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022, by MIA recoveries shows the wreckage of World War 2 C-46 aircraft on a snow-covered mountain side in the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh in India. A missing World War 2 plane has been identified in India’s remote Himalayas nearly 80 years after it crashed with no survivors, after a treacherous search that led to the deaths of three guides. AFP PHOTO

NEW DELHI, India: A missing World War 2 plane has been identified in India's remote Himalayas nearly 80 years after it crashed with no survivors, following a treacherous search that led to the deaths of three guides.

The C-46 transport aircraft was carrying 13 people from Kunming in southern China when it disappeared in stormy weather over a mountainous stretch of Arunachal Pradesh state in the first week of 1945.

"This aircraft was never heard from again. It simply disappeared," said Clayton Kuhles, a US adventurer who led the mission after a request from the son of one of those on board the doomed flight.

The expedition took months and saw Kuhles and a team of guides from the local Lisu ethnic group ford chest-deep rivers and camp in freezing temperatures at high altitudes.

Three guides died of hypothermia at an initial stage of the project while camped out during a September snowstorm.

But the team finally stumbled upon the plane on a snow-clad mountain top last month, where they were able to identify the wreckage by the tail number.

There were no human remains in what was left of the craft.

Kuhles was tasked with conducting the search by Bill Scherer, whose officer father was aboard the plane when it crashed.

"All I can say is that I am overjoyed, just knowing where he is. It is sad but joyous," Scherer told Agence France-Presse by email from New York.

"I grew up without a father. All I can think of is my poor Mother, getting a telegram and finding out her husband is missing, and she is left with me, a 13-month-old baby boy."

Hundreds of US military planes went missing around the theater of operations in India, China and Myanmar during World War 2.

While hostile fire from Japanese forces did account for some aircraft losses, Kuhles said the majority are believed to have been brought down by ice damage, hurricane-force winds and other severe weather conditions.

- Roselle R. Aquino

CAMP VICENTE LIM, Calamba City: Laguna Police Provincial Director Col. Rogarth Campo reported to Calabarzon Regional Director BGen. Eliseo Cruz on Friday the arrest of two drug suspects in an anti-illegal drugs operation of the San Pedro Police.

The San Pedro police arrested Gilbert Gabatin and Mary Grace Lorona in an anti-illegal drugs operation at Ma. Aurora Avenue, Barangay San Antonio, San Pedro, on Thursday night.

A buy-bust also led to the confiscation of 10 sachets of suspected shabu with an estimated weight of 50 grams and a street value of P350,000.

The suspects are now under the custody of the San Pedro City Police and will be charged for violation of Republic Act 9165 or the "Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002," while the seized pieces of evidence will be submitted to the Crime Laboratory Office for forensic examination.

Campo commends the personnel of San Pedro City Police Station for their accomplishment in the government's war against illegal drugs and criminality.

"The intensified anti-illegal drugs operation of Laguna PNP (Philippine National Police) produced extra triumph with the support of the community. We will endure and stretch our effort to win the war against illegal drugs," Campo said.

Calabarzon comprises Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon provinces.

- Agence France-Presse
Upbeat Biden marks first year as president

ONE YEAR IN OFFICE US President Joe Biden delivers remarks at the beginning of a meeting with members of his Council of Advisors on Science and Technology in the South Court Auditorium at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022 (January 21 in Manila), in Washington, D.C. Three members of the council met with Biden in person while a majority joined the meeting via video link due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. AFP PHOTO

WASHINGTON, D.C.: The White House launched a charm offensive, complete with a Tom Hanks video, to mark Joe Biden's first year as president on Thursday (Friday in Manila), but dire new polls and a major congressional setback told another story.

Biden, who was sworn in to replace Donald Trump at noon last January 20, marked the day by meeting with top cabinet members in charge of rolling out his signature infrastructure spending plan, a $1.2 trillion splurge he got passed in November with rare bipartisan support.

"Our nation has never fully made this kind of investment," Biden said, celebrating one of his biggest wins of last year — and a project that should keep delivering good news as bridges, roads and other large public works roll out.

The previous evening, the 79-year-old Democrat held an epic press conference lasting an hour and 52 minutes, longer even than the famously rambling events Trump used to stage.

Defending himself on his handling of the Covid pandemic and roaring inflation, Biden said he'd got "a lot done" in the face of unprecedented difficulties for a president.

"He was having a good time," Press Secretary Jen Psaki said of his marathon performance.

Despite the cheerful messaging, Biden begins his second year as president facing a slew of bad news, including failure in the Senate late Wednesday of his cherished push for election law reforms — something he has said is needed to safeguard US democracy from Trump supporters' attempts at fixing the vote.

The polls also seem to be getting only worse. According to new NBC and AP-NORC polls, 54 percent and 56 percent of Americans respectively disapprove of Biden's performance.

The numbers point ominously to what most analysts expect to be a heavy defeat for Democratic legislators in the November midterm elections, leading to Republicans taking control of Congress.

Asked about his sliding popularity, which is now in the area that Trump consistently inhabited, Biden told the press conference Wednesday: "I don't believe the polls."

Tom Hanks reassures America

Biden likes to laugh off doomsayers, telling them to share his trademark sunny outlook.

And his aides and allies did their best to spread the mood Thursday.

In a two-minute video, Hollywood legend Hanks recounted in his gravelly voice how the country's economy is bouncing back from the pandemic. The video featured clips of ordinary people, like a UPS delivery driver declaring "the fear is gone."

"We are strong, we are courageous, we are resilient, we are America — the land of the brave," Hanks said in the video, which ended with Biden pronouncing: "I've never been more optimistic about America's future."

Vice President Kamala Harris appeared on CBS, ABC and NBC networks, while Chief of Staff Ron Klain spoke on MSNBC. A slew of cabinet secretaries gave interviews to media more off the beaten track, including women's magazines and rural outlets, the White House said.

Psaki went one step further, making a relatively rare appearance on Fox News, whose major stars outside of the news operation include conspiracy theory spreading, right-wing host Tucker Carlson.

As for the second year, the White House seems to hope it can change gears, partly by getting Biden beyond the Washington bubble, meeting voters and spending more time with legislators in relaxed settings.

At his press conference, Biden said his top goal was to "get out" and "connect with people."

Psaki said "he absolutely loves talking to people who agree with him, people that don't agree with him."

"You'll see him out on the road more," she said. "You'll see him probably bring members of Congress with him on Air Force One, as he's done recently, and he's really enjoyed the opportunity to be able to have those free-ranging conversations with them."

As Biden began his second year, he joked about the experience of the first 12 months, telling Vice President Kamala Harris in a late-evening meeting of Democratic allies: "Sometimes it seems longer, doesn't it Kamala?"

- Red Mendoza,Kristina Maralit
DoH 'cautious' despite dwindling Covid cases

AMID continued projections of continued decrease in the number of cases in the country as raised by the independent OCTA Research group, the Department of Health (DoH) remains "cautious" to avoid possible public complacency that could lead to case spikes.

In a forum organized by Go Negosyo on Friday, OCTA's senior research fellow, Dr. Guido David, said coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases in the National Capital Region (NCR or Metro Manila) have shifted to fewer than 10,000 cases per day, with a negative growth rate reported in the past few days.

While cases are on a downward trajectory, David added, reproduction number, average daily attack rate and positivity rate remained under critical level based on their own metrics, while the hospital utilization rate remains moderate.

He said he believes that based on the current pattern for the NCR, cases may reach fewer than 1,000 by Valentine's Day, February 14, and fewer than 500 cases by the end of February if they would follow the same trajectory as South Africa, where the Omicron variant of Covid-19 was first detected.

But Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, in a Malacañang news briefing, said cases in the region are not yet experiencing a decrease, describing the case drop as a "plateau."

She also said other metrics in Metro Manila, such as positivity rate and hospital utilization rate, remain high, plus the usage of antigen tests in areas where there is a continuous transmission of the Omicron variant.

- Julmunir Jannaral

COTABATO CITY: Selected "pilot schools" across the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) are preparing for the resumption of in-person classes in February.

This was after the Inter-Ministry Memorandum Circular (IMMC) for the implementation of limited face-to-face (F2F) learning modality in the region was signed on Thursday.

Upholding the principle of "shared responsibility" for the reopening of classes, BARMM ministers for Education, Health, Interior and Local Government, Social Services, and the Bangsamoro Planning and Development Authority director general signed the memorandum.

The IMMC features the expansion of roles and responsibilities of the ministries including the coverage of Kinder to Grade 12 learners for F2F learning modality, the use of adaptive learning modality as a learning approach, and the inclusion of Islamic studies and Arabic language in the learning sessions.

Education Minister Mohagher Iqbal said after seven months of meetings, seminars and planning workshops led by the concerned technical working group, the Ministry of Basic, Higher and Technical Education (MBHTE) is ready to implement the limited F2F learning modality in the region.

"This policy will support other BARMM ministries and the school division offices, who are patiently and tirelessly preparing for the moment to accept their learners in their school classrooms," Iqbal said.

Reiterating the health and safety of teachers, students, and their families, Iqbal said the ministry and Schools Division Offices (SDOs) will implement strict health and safety protocols and other critical directives from the BARMM Inter-Agency Task Force.

"The effectiveness of the limited face-to-face learning modality necessitates the collaboration of the BARMM government, MBHTE leaders and personnel, SDOs, schools and administrators, concerned stakeholders, and external partners," Iqbal added.

Assistant Sec. Alfadhar Pajiji, MBHTE focal person for the face-to-face implementation, said that public schools have undergone School Readiness Assessment and School Safety Assessment Tool as benchmarks for the final list of schools in the pilot implementation of F2F classes.

"Our approach is a 33 priority list of pilot schools. If there would be a disqualification, we will identify another 33 alternate list," Pajiji said.

He added that the ministry will observe and provide weekly reports and assessments through a detailed monitoring and evaluation plan to ensure that the objectives of the policy are achieved.

Further, Pajiji said that the target date of the piloting campaign for the F2F class will be on Monday, February 14.

- Agence France-Presse
US, Russia hold last-ditch talks on Ukraine crisis

GENEVA, Switzerland: Washington's and Moscow's top diplomats meet on Friday (Saturday in Manila) in Geneva in a last-ditch bid for a solution over Ukraine, with the United States increasingly fearing that Russia will invade despite warnings of severe reprisals.

The talks between Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov come just 11 days after their deputies met in Geneva and agreed to preserve dialogue amid Russia's build-up of tens of thousands of troops on Ukraine's border.

Unlike the January 10 session, which lasted for nearly eight hours, Blinken and Lavrov are expected to have a concise exchange as they determine whether diplomacy remains possible.

Veteran diplomats who have encountered each other for years, Blinken is known for his unflappable calm and Lavrov for his mordant intensity.

They will meet at the lakeside luxury Hotel President Wilson, named for the US leader whose decisions included intervening against the Bolshevik revolution.

CRUCIAL TALK US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (right) is greeted by Ambassador Bathsheba Crocker (left) at Geneva Airport, Switzerland on Thursday, Jan. 20, 2020 (January 21 in Manila). The United States and its allies have warned Moscow of grave consequences if ‘any’ of the tens of thousands of troops massed on the border were to cross into Ukraine. Following talks in Berlin with Germany, France and Britain, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken underlined that Russia ‘cannot match’ Western powers’ resoluteness. AFP PHOTO

"These are difficult issues we are facing, and resolving them won't be done quickly. I don't expect we'll solve them in Geneva," Blinken said in Geneva.

"But we can advance our mutual understanding," Blinken said, and if Russia de-escalates on the ground, "that can turn us away from this crisis in the weeks ahead."

President Joe Biden bluntly assessed on Wednesday that his counterpart Vladimir Putin is likely to "move in" on Ukraine and warned of a "disaster for Russia."

The United States and its allies have warned of severe economic sanctions for an invasion.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov responded that Biden's remarks were destabilizing and could "inspire some hotheads in Ukraine with false hopes."

Russia, which already fuels a deadly insurgency in eastern Ukraine that has killed more than 13,000 people since 2014, has demanded guarantees that NATO never accept the former Soviet republic or expand otherwise in Moscow's old sphere.

The United States has declared the idea a "non-starter" and accused Russia of undermining Europe's post-Cold War order by bullying another country into submission.

Cold War redux?

Blinken headed to Geneva after a solidarity trip to Kyiv and talks with Britain, France and Germany in Berlin, the city that symbolized Europe's transformation from the divisions of the Iron Curtain.

"To allow Russia to violate those principles with impunity would drag us all back to a much more dangerous and unstable time, when this continent, and this city, were divided in two," he said, "with the threat of all-out war hanging over everyone's heads."

Even while rejecting the core Russian demands, the Biden administration has said it is willing to speak to Moscow about its security concerns.

One proposal by the United States is to revive restrictions on missiles in Europe that had been set by the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, a Cold War deal trashed by former president Donald Trump's administration as it accused Moscow of violations.

The Biden administration has also offered more transparency on military exercises. Russia has not rejected the proposals but says that its core concern is Ukraine and on Thursday, announced massive naval drills in the Atlantic, Pacific, Arctic and Mediterranean as a show of force.

Blinken has called for Putin to choose the "peaceful path" of diplomacy and, hoping to find common ground, said that he will not hand a formal response to Lavrov on Russia's proposals, which were presented last month in unusual detail as draft treaties.

Lavrov and Blinken will both head after their meeting to the cameras for potentially dueling accounts of what transpired.

The United States has warned that the clock is ticking, putting forward intelligence alleging that an invasion could come shortly and be preceded by a "false-flag" operation as Russia tries to trigger a pretext against Ukraine.

- Frederick Silverio
Guiguinto celebrates 24th Halamanan Festival

THE municipal government of Guiguinto, Bulacan, pushed through with the 24th Halamanan Festival in a simple celebration amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mayor Ambrosio Cruz Jr. spearheaded the opening ceremony of the event on Thursday that coincided with the feast day of the town's patron saint, San Ildefonso.

The three-day festival started with the Garden Competition held at Guiguinto Municipal Arena where some 50 gardeners from the said town participated in the annual competition such as Landscaping (Topiary and Figure Plants), Bonsai (Cactus and Succulent), and Ornamental Plants (On-The-Spot Dish Garden Making).

The winners were JunJun Sison for the Ornamental Plant category, Alvin Tobias for the Topiary Small/Figure Plant category, Cesar Androin for the Bonsai category, Clarissa San Lorenzo for the Cactus and Succulent category, Ronnie Domasig for the On-The-Spot Dish Garden Making contest and Luz Moroña for the Landscaping event.

The champions received a trophy and cash award from the local government unit.

Cruz said that the festival, which was first held in 1999, is now a crowd drawing attraction similar to the Panagbenga Festival in Baguio, Sinulog Festival in Cebu, Dinagyang Festival in Iloilo and other Philippine Islands festivals.

Cruz said this year's celebration is different from the previous event as they suspended some activities such as the "Indakan Sa Kalye" and "Parada ng Karosa" due to the pandemic.

He said the festival showcases the town's major industry — the ornamental garden plants and landscape industry.

"Our garden and landscape industry is now being recognized not only in many parts of the country, but in other countries as well. We want to showcase the craftsmanship of our skilled gardeners and landscapers in the annual Halamanan Festival which kicks off on the feast day of our patron Saint San Ildefonso, the saint of farmers," Cruz said.

The 3-day celebration will culminate on January 22 where some of the activities and competitions will be held virtually.

"Halamanan Festival has gone a long way and has now become one of the crowd-drawing attractions in Bulacan and expected to be in full bloom next year," Cruz added.

AP works with foundations and nonprofits to augment our journalism and help us tell stories we might otherwise not be able to tell. Director of News Partnerships Lisa Gibbs explains how this outside support underpins AP's mission of providing factual, unbiased journalism to the world.
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AP’s 2021 Pulitzer Prize-winning photos
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AP wins 2 RFK Journalism Awards
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Astrid Galvan named national race writer
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UPDATED May 17, 2021: AP President and CEO Gary Pruitt issued this statement on Monday regarding the destruction of AP's Gaza bureau:
AP launches local news AI project with Knight Foundation
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- Ellalyn De Vera-Ruiz
(SCREEN GRAB FROM PAGASA YOUTUBE CHANNEL) Rains are expected in Northern Mindanao, Visayas, and Palawan as the approaching low pressure area (LPA) over the Pacific Ocean may cross these areas next week, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said on Saturday afternoon, Jan. 22. PAGASA weather specialist ...
- Manila Bulletin
By Cherrylin Caacbay A man was arrested by police after allegedly snatching a cellphone from an 18-year-old person with disability (PWD) in Malanday, Valenzuela City on Wednesday, Jan. 19. Police Senior Master Sgt. Roberto Santillan and Pat. John Ray Dina of Barangay Malanday Police Sub-Station 6 identified the suspect as ...
- Patrick Garcia
The City of Manila suspends once again the celebration of the Chinese New Year as it continues to fight the new surge in COVID-19 cases brought about by the more contagious Omicron and Delta variants. During the inauguration of the newly renovated Manila Zoo as the city’s newest vaccination site ...
- Robert Requintina
Man of the World (File photo) Some 45 talented and gorgeous men from around the world will join the 4th Man of the World Pageant, which will be held in Baguio City on June 18. “This year, we are happy to announce to all of you that the 4th edition ...
- Manila Bulletin
Erehwon Center for the Arts welcomes Marat Pavlov, ambassador to the Philippines of the Russian Federation, and his wife, Madame Irina Pavlova
- Raymund Antonio
Vice President Leni Robredo lamented the country’s supply of energy is the “number one concern now” as she called for the development of indigenous energy sources to alleviate the rising energy prices. Vice President Leni Robredo (OVP photo) Robredo, a presidential aspirant, was asked about addressing the energy price and ...
- Analou de Vera
PIXABAY / MANILA BULLETIN The Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) said that at least 300 Filipino travelers are testing positive for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) each day upon arrival in the country. BOQ Deputy Director Roberto Salvador Jr. said there were about 3,000 international arrivals to the Philippines per day. “Sa ngayon ...
- Manila Bulletin
A 6.1-magnitude earthquake struck Balut Island in Davao Occidental at 10:26 a.m., just a few hours after a magnitude-5.4 quake hit Baganga, Davao Oriental at 4:43 a.m. The National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC) is still assessing the damage that may have been caused by the earthquakes. An adviser ...
- Aaron Homer Dioquino
The Caloocan City government announced on Saturday, Jan. 22, the requirements needed to get a certification for individuals who have lost their vaccination cards. Owners of lost vaccination cards must submit an affidavit of loss and a valid identification card. A representative of the owner can also process the request ...
- Faith Argosino
Department of Agriculture (DA) William Dar defended the decision to import 60,000 metric tons (MT) of galunggong, saying the devastation caused by typhoon “Odette” has affected the production of fish products in the country. While he said that the aquaculture sector provides more than 50 percent of the required fish ...
- Manila Bulletin
SM Foundation opens online applications for scholarship program for school year 2022-2023.
- Charie Mae F. Abarca
An expert sees the possibility of placing Metro Manila under an Alert Level 2 status by February 2022. (MANILA BULLETIN / FILE PHOTO) National Task Force (NTF) against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) special adviser Dr. Teodoro “Ted” Herbosa said that Metro Manila’s Alert Level status may be downgraded from Alert Level ...
- Analou de Vera
(Mark Balmores / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN) The Department of Health (DOH) reported 30,552 new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases on Saturday, Jan. 22. Active COVID-19 cases nationwide stood at 280,619, the DOH’s latest case bulletin showed. Of the active cases, 8,591 are asymptomatic, 267,236 are mild, 2,996 are moderate, ...
- Manila Bulletin
Fontillas, who hails from Zambales, is just one of the many collectors of chibi saints. She currently has over 100 chibi saints inside her room. No doubt that they’re cute, but she says they also help her pray and meditate.
- Carol RH Malasig
We all have something we’re proud about. A new job, a raise you totally deserve, a new property or a car, even a career milestone you worked so hard for. While it’s human to be proud, it’s often considered pathetic to seek attention or validation for one’s achievements or good ...
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Presidential aspirant Ferdinand ‘’Bongbong’’ R. Marcos Jr will join presidential interviews to be organized by ABS-CBN, lawyer Victor Rodriguez, a Marcos spokesman, told PTV News on Saturday, Jan. 22. Whether Marcos would grant interviews with other media organizations, Rodriguez said: ‘’Basta parehas ang laban haharap kami (If the fight is ...
- Chito Chavez
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- Carlo Anolin
Overweight Russell makes second trip to the scale an hour later Reigning WBC featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr. and unbeaten Filipino contender Mark Magsayo made their respective grades in the weigh-in ahead of their main event world title clash at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, Atlantic City in New ...
- Manila Standard Business
Australian logistics giant establishes office in Parañaque

Australian logistics giant Toll Group opened a local office in the Philippines, expanding its entrenched footprint across Asia. The Manila office enables Toll Group to more effectively support Philippines-based businesses in their supply chain needs, empowering them with a suite of best-in-class supply chain solutions and access to regional growth opportunities. Toll Group has maintained […]

The post Australian logistics giant establishes office in Parañaque appeared first on Manila Standard.

- Manila Standard Business
Executive sees five trends in digital remittance for 2022

After the resurgence of COVID-19 cases and mobility restrictions in the Philippines, all eyes are now on what 2022 will bring to the millions dependent on remittances each year. WorldRemit country director Earl Melivo shares his market trend predictions for the year. First, remittance growth is expected to continue. WorldRemit processed nearly $10 billion in […]

The post Executive sees five trends in digital remittance for 2022 appeared first on Manila Standard.

- Manila Standard Business
IKEA PH taps Mober to deliver products using electric vehicles

Filipino tech-logistics company Mober cemented its commitment to reduce carbon emissions through a partnership with home furnishing retailer IKEA for the latter’s last-mile electric vehicle delivery. IKEA opened its largest store in the world in Pasay City on Nov. 25, 2021, welcoming customers to a new 66,000-square-meter facility in Manila. With online orders now accounting […]

The post IKEA PH taps Mober to deliver products using electric vehicles appeared first on Manila Standard.

- Manila Standard Showbiz
Hit Netflix-adapted ‘Trese’ illustrations up for NFT Auction

Pieces of the hugely popular Netflix-adapted Filipino graphic novel Trese can now be owned through the new form of digital art called, NFT, or Non-Fungible Token.     Cartoonist, Kajo Baldisimo, co-creator of Trese, teams up with Luis Buenaventura, one of the Philippines’ first NFT artists, for a new series of NFT collectibles dubbed as “Trese x […]

The post Hit Netflix-adapted ‘Trese’ illustrations up for NFT Auction appeared first on Manila Standard.

- Manila Standard Lifestyle
Benilde opens Bachelor program in Sign Language Interpretation

Bachelor in Sign Language Interpretation, the newest program of the School of Deaf Education and Applied Studies (SDEAS) of the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, currently accepts first year level applicants for the first term of Academic Year 2022 to 2023. Motivated by its goals of innovation and inclusion, the institution offers this pioneering […]

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- Patricia Bianca S. Taculao
Tapping into the world of NFTs

For many years, art has remained on the physical plane as artists showcase their pieces through exhibitions or competitions where collectors visit to acquire these creations for their own.   Museums also value physical copies of art from notable painters. Yet, as the world continues to evolve, so does art.      Today, we bore witness to […]

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- Patricia Bianca S. Taculao
Maris Racal jumps the viral queue with ‘Pumila Ka’

Actress and singer Maris Racal treated both fans and OPM lovers to her new single, “Pumila Ka,” which boasts witty lyric and an aesthetic music video to accompany it.  The video starts with Maris recreating her viral video of her typing on a laptop with both eyebrows raised. This particular scene became a popular meme […]

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- Manila Standard Showbiz
ktx unveils explosive concert lineup for 2022

The county’s leading digital events platform, ktx.ph, kicks off its spectacular concert series in 2022 with performances by three of the country’s most popular artists, Belle Mariano, Morissette Amon, and Angeline Quinto.          Tomorrow night, Morissette will celebrate her tenth anniversary in the music industry via the digital concert, Phoenix, It highlights […]

The post ktx unveils explosive concert lineup for 2022 appeared first on Manila Standard.

- Manila Standard Showbiz
Conan Gray gears up for massive year with new single, concert tour

Platinum-selling, chart-topping, pop singer and songwriter Conan Gray unveils a brand-new song entitled “Jigsaw,” the latest single from his as of yet untitled forthcoming album. Conan shares that he wrote the song originally as a bit of a diary entry rant for himself. “I’d spent my entire life contorting myself and changing everything I used […]

The post Conan Gray gears up for massive year with new single, concert tour appeared first on Manila Standard.

- Angelica Villanueva
Christian Bables, Faith Da Silva in ‘Regal Studio Presents’ romcom episode

How much are you willing to do for someone you love? In today’s episode of Regal Studio Presents, a woman is on a mission to find a new love for her gay partner in “My Boyfriend’s Romance,” headlined by Faith Da Silva as Pia and Christian Bables as John Christopher.          Pia […]

The post Christian Bables, Faith Da Silva in ‘Regal Studio Presents’ romcom episode appeared first on Manila Standard.

- Abante News
Malikhaing Pinoy nagmarka sa Amerika

Kinilala ng Swiss fashion house, Bally ang isang Filipino-American designer bilang kanilang bagong Creative Director.

The post Malikhaing Pinoy nagmarka sa Amerika first appeared on Abante.
- Abante News
Bangis ni Sotto bitin vs Melbourne

INILABAS ni Pinoy import Kai Sotto ang kanyang bangis sa loob ng court para sa Adelaide 36ers subalit hindi ito sapat dahil yumuko sila kontra Melbourne United, 97-78, Sabado sa pagpapatuloy ng 2021-2022 Australia National Basketball League (NBL).

The post Bangis ni Sotto bitin vs Melbourne first appeared on Abante.
- Abante News
Pinay booters wagi sa Thailand

IPINASOK ni forward Chandler McDaniel ang importanteng goal para sa Pilipinas upang itala ang makasaysayang panalo kontra Thailand, 1-0, sa pagsisimula ng 2022 AFC Women's Asian Cup Biyernes ng gabi sa DY Patil Stadium sa Mumbai, India.

The post Pinay booters wagi sa Thailand first appeared on Abante.
- Abante News
Terrence sinekreto kasal sa kumander

NILANTAD ng entertainment columnist na si Dolly Anne Carvajal na nasagap na pala nito ang balita ng pagpapakasal ni Terrence Romeo noon pang 2017.

The post Terrence sinekreto kasal sa kumander first appeared on Abante.
- Abante News
Diwata ang peg: Francine kinabog pagka-dyosa ni Andrea

Ayaw patalo ni Francine Diaz kay Andrea Brillantes. Ang bongga nga ng kanyang 18th birthday sa Jan. 27.

The post Diwata ang peg: Francine kinabog pagka-dyosa ni Andrea first appeared on Abante.
- Abante News
Nadine lumobo, pinaghinalaang buntis

Hindi na nag-iisa si Yassi Pressman sa paglobo ng katawan, dahil magkumare na nga sila ni Nadine Lustre sa parehong sitwasyon.

The post Nadine lumobo, pinaghinalaang buntis first appeared on Abante.
- Abante News
Alindog ni Maris pinilahan ng mga barako

Humamig ng libo-libong like, at comment ang Instagram post ni Maris Racal, na kung saan ay kitang-kita ang hubog ng kanyang katawan, pati na rin ang maalsa niyang boobey.

The post Alindog ni Maris pinilahan ng mga barako first appeared on Abante.
- Abante News
Diego pumiyok sa pag-iwan kay Barbie

Sa presscon ng ‘The Wife’ na pinagbibidahan nina Diego Loyzaga, Louise delos Reyes, Cara Gonzales, at dinirek ni Denise O’hara, inusisa ang aktor kung bakit hindi niya kasama ang dyowa niyang si Barbie Imperial sa Amerika.

The post Diego pumiyok sa pag-iwan kay Barbie first appeared on Abante.
- Abante News
‘Maraming boboto sa akin’ Vice Ganda sure winner sa politika

Feeling ni Vice Ganda, sakaling tumakbo siya sa eleksiyon, malaki ang tsansa niyang manalo.

The post ‘Maraming boboto sa akin’ Vice Ganda sure winner sa politika first appeared on Abante.
- Abante News
GMA pumalag sa akusasyon ni Marcos Jr. vs Jessica

Agad-agad na naglabas ng statement ang GMA Network sa hindi pagsali ni Bongbong Marcos, Jr. sa ‘The Jessica Soho Presidential Interviews’.

The post GMA pumalag sa akusasyon ni Marcos Jr. vs Jessica first appeared on Abante.
Increasing hospital beds dedicated to COVID-19 patients would prevent provinces from being placed under stricter alert levels, Malacañang said, as it urged regional health offices to continue monitoring the healthcare capacities of local governments.
The Philippines logged 30,552 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of people who have been recorded as having tested for the coronavirus to 3,387,524.
Malacañang clarified that the government is not issuing cards exempting unvaccinated persons from mobility restrictions and reiterated its appeal for Filipinos to avail of COVID-19 jabs.
“We believe her questions will just focus on negativity about BBM which the UniTeam dislike,” said Marcos’ spokesperson Vic Rodriguez in a statement.
Aftershocks and damage are expected after a magnitude 6.5 quake hit Davao Occidental on Saturday morning, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology reported.
Twitter said Friday that it suspended more than 300 accounts promoting Marcos for violating the social networking site’s policies.
The Commission on Population and Development yesterday debunked accusations that the government has rolled out vaccines against COVID-19 to “depopulate” the country.
The government needs 38.67 million anti-COVID jabs for the vaccination of minors, National Task Force (NTF) against COVID-19 chief implementer and vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr. said on Thursday.
Four investigational drugs are highly effective against COVID-19 even with the circulation of the Omicron variant in the country, an infectious disease expert at San Lazaro Hospital said yesterday.
The Department of Foreign Affairs yesterday welcomed the US State Department study that found China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea as “unlawful” and “inconsistent” with international law.
- BMPlus
Getting your hands on your perfect device is easy if you know what you’re looking for
- BMPlus
Known for its quality concoctions of espresso-based drinks, the country’s most Instagrammable Cafe — Coffee Project – has come up…
- BMPlus
SINCE San Jose in Batangas takes the forefront as the leading egg producer in the country, Senator Cynthia…
- BMPlus
Three-term Senator and Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda today called for more budgetary support for livelihood programs of the…
- Malou Talosig-Bartolome
Beijing rejected the findings of the United States State Department showing that China’s claims in the South China…
- BMPlus
Marriott Manila #MakeEATEasy for everyone to celebrate the most important festivity in the Chinese calendar with a variety…
- BMPlus
The new year is all about removing the bad and ushering in the good. There is no better…
- BMPlus
Netflix has confirmed to release the Korean adaptation of global hit La Casa de Papel – Money Heist:…
- BMPlus
Araneta Group and its social responsibility arm, the J. Amado Araneta Foundation (JAAF), have officially turned over donations…
- BMPlus
After making headlines with generation-defining songs that celebrate individuality and empowerment, Maris Racal is back with another track…
- Rene Acosta
After losing vast grounds and some key leaders, NPA rebels may lose chance of cashing in on polls
- The Associated Press
At some of the world’s most sensitive spots, authorities have installed security screening devices made by a single…
- The Associated Press
Microsoft is paying the enormous sum of nearly $70 billion for Activision Blizzard, the maker of Candy Crush…
- Dinna Chan Vasquez
How many times have you tweeted 11:11 wishing for something good to happen? Maybe for a sick loved…
- Rizal Raoul Reyes
OPPO Philippines recently said 2020 and 2021 were both banner years for the company as it remained one…
- Ed Uy
Just when you thought we already have all sorts of influencers—from fashion, food, tech, fitness, travel, etc.—have you…
- Benjamin Layug
For our first city tour after the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, my son Jandy and I joined the…
- BusinessMirror
Shangri-La The Fort, Manila in partnership with the Singapore Tourism Board, transports guests to the future of travel…
- Philippine News Agency
BUSINESSES require focus on reskilling and upskilling their people for them to adapt to changes, especially those brought…
- BusinessMirror
THE Technological Institute of the Philippines (T.I.P.) again aced its periodic ISO quality-management surveillance audit and at the…
- BusinessMirror
THE 19th CineMapúa Film Festival’s Virtual Awarding Ceremony saw an overflow of unbridled talent and creativity, as it…
- BusinessMirror
A TEAM of researchers from De La Salle University (DLSU) and De La Salle-Araneta University (DLSAU) placed second…
- BusinessMirror
THE United States, through the US Agency for International Development (USAID), handed over P2.2 million ($44,000) worth of…
- Azer Parrocha / PNA
MANILA—Malacañang has renewed its call for local government units (LGUs) to consider house-to-house vaccination drives to get more…
- The Associated Press
Covid-19 infections are soaring again at US nursing homes because of the Omicron wave, and deaths are climbing…
- Erica Ascher

Chinese property developers’ shares and bonds extended gains after Reuters revealed that China is drafting nationwide rules to make it […]

The post Reuters reveals China drafting rules to ease property developers’ use of escrow funds; markets react appeared first on Reuters News Agency.

- Erica Ascher

Reuters exclusively reported that the Biden administration is reviewing its cloud business to determine whether it poses a risk to […]

The post Reuters exclusively reports U.S. examining Alibaba’s cloud unit for national security risks; market reacts appeared first on Reuters News Agency.

- Erica Ascher

Reuters exclusively reported that the world’s largest streaming service has raised its monthly subscription price by $1 to $2 per […]

The post Reuters exclusively reports Netflix raises monthly subscription prices in U.S., Canada; market reacts appeared first on Reuters News Agency.

- Erica Ascher

Reuters exclusively reported that China will release crude oil from its national strategic stockpiles around the Lunar New Year holidays […]

The post Reuters exclusively reports China agrees with U.S. to release oil reserves near Lunar New Year appeared first on Reuters News Agency.

- Jaime-Lee Charles

Reuters exclusively reported that German utility STEAG has secured at least 100 million euros ($113 million) in extra funding to shield it […]

The post Reuters exclusively reveals German utility STEAG secures extra credit to weather volatile energy prices appeared first on Reuters News Agency.

- Jaime-Lee Charles

Reuters broke the news that two Belarusian cross-country skiers, including one who hoped to compete at next month’s Beijing Winter Olympics, said […]

The post Reuters reveals Belarusian skiers blame politics after being barred from competition appeared first on Reuters News Agency.

- Jaime-Lee Charles

Reuters broke the news that an infant boy, handed in desperation to a soldier across an airport wall in the chaos of […]

The post Reuters reveals Baby lost in chaos of Afghanistan airlift found, returned to family after long ordeal appeared first on Reuters News Agency.

- Jaime-Lee Charles

Reuters reported exclusively that Schlumberger, the world’s largest oilfield services company, is adjusting operations planning as COVID-19 infections have soared among its […]

The post Reuters exclusively reveals Schlumberger adjusts operations planning as U.S. COVID-19 cases soar appeared first on Reuters News Agency.

- Jaime-Lee Charles

Reuters exclusively reported that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) appeared unprepared to assume full responsibility for the nation’s […]

The post Reuters exclusively reveals U.S. health agency may be unprepared to take over COVID vaccine program appeared first on Reuters News Agency.

- Erica Ascher

Reuters revealed that former President Donald Trump’s new media venture, which Digital World has agreed to merge with, plans to […]

The post Reuters reveals Trump to launch his social media app in February; market reacts appeared first on Reuters News Agency.

- Niall McVeigh
Australian Open 2022 day six: Rublev v Cilic; De Minaur and Swiatek win – live!
Live updates from the day six action at Melbourne ParkDefending champion Osaka beaten by Anisimova in thrillerGet in touch! Email Niall here or tweet @niallmcveigh

De Minaur has hit 10 winners to Andujar’s one, and is putting pressure on the Spaniard as he serves to stay in the set. Andujar, who’s making his first ever third-round appearance in Melbourne, digs in to hold, and trails 5-4.

Over on the Kia Arena, Taro Daniel and Jannik Sinner are locked at one set all, and 3-3 in the third. The winners of these two matches meet in the fourth round.

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- Jedidajah Otte
Coronavirus live: Japan and Taiwan report Omicron surges; Ireland lifts restrictions

Poland and Russia report record new daily infections; Taiwan to tighten restrictions after 60 Covid cases at Taoyuan factory

See all our coronavirus coverage

Germany’s seven-day incidence has risen to a new high of 772.7 infections per 100,000 people, up from 706.3 the previous day.

The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported 135,461 new infections on Saturday, an increase of 57,439 from Saturday a week ago, when 78,022 positive tests were reported.

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- Dave Eggers
‘It’s a glorified backpack of tubes and turbines’: Dave Eggers on jetpacks and the enigma of solo flight

When inventor ​David Mayman took to the skies, it seemed he’d answered an age-old longing. So why did no one seem to care?

We have jetpacks and we do not care. An Australian named David Mayman has invented a functioning jetpack and has flown it all over the world – once in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty – yet few people know his name. His jetpacks can be bought but no one is clamouring for one. For decades, humans have said they want jetpacks, and for thousands of years we have said we want to fly, but do we really? Look up. The sky is empty.

Airlines are dealing with pilot shortages, and this promises to get far worse. A recent study found that, by 2025, we can expect a worldwide shortfall of 34,000 commercial pilots. With smaller aircraft, the trends are similar. Hang-gliding has all but disappeared. Ultralight aircraft makers are barely staying afloat. (One manufacturer, Air Création, sold only one vehicle in the US last year.) With every successive year, we have more passengers and fewer pilots. Meanwhile, one of the most dreamed of forms of flight – jetpacks – exists, but Mayman can’t get anyone’s attention.

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- Matt Collins
Ways of seeding: the designer changing the way we look at gardening

With a background in fashion and art, Errol Fernandes brings a creative eye to designing outdoor spaces

Overseeing the gardens of a city museum is a somewhat atypical post in the gardening world, but a fantastic one (as head gardener at London’s Garden Museum, I should know). Horticulture is combined with history, education and storytelling, which inform plant choices, design and presentation. Errol Fernandes, head of horticulture at south London’s Horniman Museum and Gardens, which houses the collection of the 19th-century tea trader Frederick John Horniman – says conversations with visitors regularly stray beyond gardening into the realms of art, collections and curation.

Fernandes, who took on the role last spring, oversees 16½ acres of tropical, medicinal and rockery plantings, mature trees and large areas of parkland grass. He draws inspiration not only from his horticultural studies and experience, but a background in art and curation (he initially studied fine art, painting and photography). A painter’s eye, therefore, informs his approach to planting and garden maintenance.

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- Nicholas Balfe
From ricotta dumplings to cheddar risotto: Nicholas Balfe’s recipes for cheesy winter comfort food

Cheddar and potato risotto, ricotta gnudi on cider-braised cabbage with crisp anchovy breadcrumbs, and baked onions with a blue cheese sauce

I’ve always strived to source ingredients as locally as possible, so late last year, when we finally opened our first out-of-town restaurant, Holm, in south Somerset, it gave me the ideal opportunity to take that commitment to a whole new level. So, for today’s cheesy dishes, I use good West Country cheeses that are made nearby: Westcombe ricotta for the gnudi, Montgomery cheddar for the risotto and Bath Blue in the sauce for the onions. Feel free to follow suit, or ask your local deli (or cheesemonger, if you’re lucky enough to have one) for advice about sourcing from cheesemakers close to wherever you live.

UK readers: click to buy these ingredients from Ocado

UK readers: click to buy these ingredients from Ocado

UK readers: click to buy these ingredients from Ocado

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- Sirin Kale
‘She’s an inspiration to every mum’: the postnatal depression survivor offering new mothers a lifeline

A local support network helped Jo Leach overcome PND – now she’s a key part of it, and thoroughly deserving of a little pampering

Jo Leach didn’t tell anyone about her postnatal depression. It came on after her second child, Hayden, was born on Christmas Day 2011. With two children under two, she sometimes wouldn’t leave the house for days at a time. “I didn’t know what was happening to me,” says Leach, 41, who lives in Stroud, Gloucestershire. “There was this overwhelming feeling of being really anxious and panicky.”

She didn’t tell anyone – not even her partner or her mum. “I was embarrassed,” says Leach. “I felt alone.” Postnatal depression (PND) is common, and affects more than one in 10 women within a year of giving birth, but Leach did not know that at the time. Going to the supermarket or the park was hard work. She avoided crowds. “I was just surviving,” she says. “Getting through each day and keeping the children alive, and making sure they were fed and happy. I struggled to look after myself. I wouldn’t eat properly. It was all about them.” She lost a lot of weight.

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- Peter-Astrid Kane in San Francisco
‘Cinema is my religion and the Castro is our Vatican’: shakeup at landmark San Francisco venue stuns locals

The city’s biggest arthouse cinema may become a live entertainment venue just shy of its 100th birthday

For years, the San Francisco underground drag performer and cinephile Peaches Christ has filled the city’s renowned Castro Theatre with her Midnight Mass series, juxtaposing cult film screenings with live, drag-parody re-enactments and onstage interviews. These loving but irreverent late-night events have been a staple of LGBTQ+ culture at the city’s pre-eminent arthouse theater, itself one of the most visible landmarks in San Francisco’s most famous gayborhood.

As Peaches Christ puts it: “Cinema has been my religion, and the Castro is our Vatican.”

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- Gaston Dorren
Kingdom of Characters by Jing Tsu review – Chinese writing’s near death experience

A lively chronicle of the inventors who gave their all to make the Chinese script compatible with modern life

“If the Chinese script is not abolished, China will certainly perish!” So said the literary author Lu Xun in the 1930s, and many in China agreed. History has proved him wrong, of course. How the country went from rags to first ruin, then riches has been the stuff of headlines for over a century. Yet far from being abolished, the script (known as hànzì) was successfully pressed into service for all sorts of modern technologies. In Kingdom of Characters, scholar Jing Tsu introduces us to a tumultuous century and a colourful cast of (human) characters.

In 1900, China was a great power in steep decline. European imperialism had played its usual shameful part, but there were other reasons for the country’s plight. Some of these problems were linguistic in nature. More than 80% of the population could neither read nor write, including most women. Nobody except officials spoke a standard language, and the numerous varieties of Chinese made communication beyond regional borders impossible. However, widespread illiteracy and the absence of a standard language were common in countries around the world and were living memories even in Europe. More peculiar was the fact that written Chinese reflected the state of the language as spoken 2,000 years ago rather than any of the modern vernaculars – imagine the French doing their correspondence in Latin. But the real trouble lay elsewhere: in the Chinese writing system itself.

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- Gemma Bowes
Digital detox: Going cold turkey with no wifi in the Lake District

After some early dismay, one family revels in a break from the online world at a remote Lake District cottage

“The question comes almost as soon as we step inside the remote cottage in the western Lake District: “Where’s the telly?” The door of the holiday cottage in Eskdale opens straight into the tiny lounge, and in the space where the TV should be there’s only a simple fireplace, a wooden bookcase stuffed with maps and nature books, and a couple of high-backed armchairs.

“Well, can we go on the iPad then?” is the next request. Then, when they’re informed that no, we didn’t bring it, comes, “Can I go on your phone?” There is a look of confused disbelief on my children’s faces when I explain that there’s no internet, no computer, not even a phone signal, and that, in fact, we’re not going to be looking at screens of any sort for our entire week-long stay.

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- Clea Skopeliti
About a dozen Tory MPs said to have accused party whips of blackmail

Standards committee chair says claims include having money pulled from constituencies or promise of funding for ‘right vote’

About a dozen Tory MPs have made similar allegations in the last few days to a colleague who claims the party’s whips have engaged in blackmail, the chair of the Commons standards committee has said.

Chris Bryant’s remarks come as William Wragg, the senior Tory backbencher who accused No 10 of trying to blackmail MPs seeking to oust Boris Johnson, prepares to meet the police over his allegations.

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- Edward Helmore in New York
‘Personal, vindictive, inflammatory’: Epstein-linked legal battle ratchets up

Leon Black, one of New York’s wealthiest men, locked in a bitter dispute with a former lover who accuses him of sexual violence

With Ghislaine Maxwell’s criminal conviction working its way toward an appeal, and Virginia Giuffre’s civil case against Prince Andrew caught up in arguments over evidence and depositions, another high-profile case linked to the convicted sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein is working through the New York court system.

It too is dragging in some of the biggest names in elite New York society, in this case sending shockwaves through the rarefied world of Manhattan finance.

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- Sirin Kale
‘The clap for the NHS meant nothing’: novelist turned doctor Roopa Farooki on her frontline experience of Covid

When the writer retrained in medicine, she never imagined she’d be working through a pandemic. She describes how she has coped with the everyday tragedy by putting her experience into words

In February 2020, when the novelist and doctor Roopa Farooki first sat down to write her latest book, coronavirus was “something that was kind of buzzing around” in the background. “Those of us going to work every day in a hospital, we weren’t really aware of it; we were just blindly doing our job, day by day, patient by patient. Knowing there was this thing happening, but it was insidious. There was a clue here or there, but we weren’t absolutely sure how far it would affect us, or how far it would change us.”

Farooki’s sister Kiron had just died of breast cancer. Kiron was 48, a solicitor and a mother. She had previously been unwell, but the cancer had gone into remission. “We thought she had beaten this thing,” says Farooki. Her sister was straight-talking, fierce in her love, prone to doling out advice whether Farooki wanted to hear it or not. “She was super-amazing at everything she did.” To process it all, Farooki did what she has done since she was a little girl: she wrote about it. “Before she passed away, she saw that I was thinking about her and writing about it. She wasn’t angry about it. But you always worry when you write about someone that you’re twisting yourself into someone else’s tragedy.”

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- Dan Sabbagh
From conference highs to the abyss: the swift undoing of Boris Johnson

Less than four months ago, the PM was riding high and telling jokes in Manchester, a world away from where he is now

It was not meant to fall apart as fast as this. After Boris Johnson won the general election in December 2019, he declared in a victory address: “I, and we, will never take your support for granted.”

The prime minister’s 80-seat majority, a victory for the “get Brexit done” campaign, appeared to leave him impregnable. For 18 months after, Johnson continued to defy political gravity despite repeated missteps, as the pandemic came to Britain’s shores.

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- Ian Jack
Rees-Mogg’s roots tell a true Conservative tale – just not the one he wants us to hear | Ian Jack

The MP’s grandfather worked as a dairyman and lorry driver, but this does not fit his carefully cultivated public image

Just to the south of London’s great stations for the north – Euston, St Pancras and King’s Cross – an old and rather careworn neighbourhood serves the traveller’s needs. Cheap beds, cheap food and drink, drugs probably, sex formerly. Finer amusements had been planned for the site: in 1830 a project known as the Royal Panharmonium Pleasure Gardens, which was to include a theatre, ballroom and music gallery, went bankrupt before it was finished. In its place came a square and a few streets of modest brown-brick houses, built just before flat-fronted Georgian went out of fashion.

Knowing no better, I stayed in a comfortless room there on a winter’s night in the 1960s. Shillings fed the meter for the gas fire, a light bulb hung from the ceiling, and in the early hours of the morning the door shook with a tremendous banging as a man’s slurred voice called out for a woman. The area is more respectable now, but in some ways nicely unchanged. True, there’s a Travelodge and a Comfort Inn, but also a Macdonald hotel and a Jesmond Dene hotel, which speak of a time when travellers coming or going from stations north of the Tyne liked to be reminded of home.

Ian Jack is a Guardian columnist

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- Rosanna Greenstreet
Samira Ahmed: ‘I gave the V sign to a rude driver – it turned out to be a police car’

The broadcaster on making a stand, meeting Paul McCartney, and a solo shopping trip at the age of two

Born in London, Samira Ahmed, 53, began her career as a BBC trainee and rose to present news, current affairs and arts programmes on radio and television. In 2020, she won the Broadcasting Press Guild’s audio broadcaster of the year for Front Row on Radio 4 and her podcast How I Found My Voice. In January 2020, she won a landmark sex discrimination employment tribunal against the BBC for equal pay on the television show Newswatch. She features in Tamesis Street: Thirty Authors Tell One Story of a Climate Disaster, available through ShelterBox Book Club. She lives in London and has two children.

When were you happiest?On stage, interviewing one of my heroes, Paul McCartney, at the Royal Festival Hall last November.

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- Shefali Luthra for The 19th
‘It was a nightmare’: life in the US before legal abortion

The supreme court decision in Roe v Wade was made 49 years ago, making abortion a protected right. Now, with that right under threat, people recall life before the landmark ruling

This article is published in partnership with The 19th, an independent, nonprofit newsroom reporting at the intersection of gender, politics and policy. Read the full version here

Saturday marks the 49th anniversary of the supreme court’s Roe v Wade decision, the landmark ruling that guaranteed the right to an abortion in the US. It could be the last anniversary before it is overturned.

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- Simon Hattenstone
Pedro Almodóvar on Spain’s tragic past: ‘You can’t ask people to forget’

With his new film Parallel Mothers, the director dials down the camp to address the shadow of fascism hanging over his homeland

Pedro Almodóvar is in Madrid at his production company El Deseo (The Desire). El Deseo could not be a more fitting name: desire has been at the heart of his films. All sorts of desire: for love, sex, justice, acceptance and truth. Behind him are DVDs, books and a phalanx of awards. He has five Baftas, five Goyas and is the only Spanish director to have won two Oscars (best foreign film in 1999 for All About My Mother and best original screenplay for Talk to Her in 2002).

He is sitting on a purple chair, wearing a pink jumper, his hair quiffed into a punky white meringue. You suspect that every colour in Almodóvar’s life has been carefully handpicked – just as in his films. His back is ramrod straight, his manner both warm and regal. Almodóvar is a man used to being in control, and today there is a translator (despite his fluent English), assistant and publicist at his service. When I met Almodóvar previously, in Madrid in 2004, he was tense throughout our conversation, and only began to relax after the interview. At the end, he gave me a copy of a calendar I had admired, featuring pictures he had shot on location. He signed it “Things are simpler and yet more complicated”. Somehow, it seems to sum up his films and worldview perfectly.

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- Zoe Wood
Food waste: are you throwing your money in the bin?

We waste hundreds a year by binning uneaten food – here’s how being more green can also save you cash

The cost of living crisis means many Britons are desperately casting around for ways to save money this winter. Yet each year the average family throws away more than £700 of perfectly good food – so could tackling this waste be a win-win for you and the environment?

“You are literally throwing money in the bin by wasting food,” says Helen White, Wrap’s special adviser for household food waste. The charity, which works to reduce waste and promote efficient use of resources, estimates that a family with children could save £730 a year on average by not binning food. “That money could come into very sharp focus as we move further into this year,” White says.

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- Hannah Devlin Science correspondent
‘More people will die’: fears for clinically vulnerable as England axes plan B

Coronavirus pandemic’s finishing line has not yet come clearly into focus for millions of people

Coronavirus – latest updatesSee all our coronavirus coverage

“We must learn to live with Covid in the same way we have to live with flu,” Sajid Javid told the nation this week. For most people, the parallel with flu is now valid: vaccinations and acquired immunity have defanged Covid to the point that there is no longer much risk of becoming severely unwell.

However, the pandemic’s finishing line has not yet come clearly into focus for a sizeable minority in society. In England, 3.7 million people fall in the clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) category, including those with blood cancers, an organ transplant, kidney disease and other conditions linked to immunosuppression.

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- Hannah Fearn
‘We are weakening democracy’: fears over lack of lessons in how government works

An MPs’ report found a fifth of secondary schools in England provide no education about politics. Why?

“She’s just a middle-aged woman, what would she know about it?” In a small classroom on a dark winter afternoon in east London, a group of students are talking about deciphering the meaning behind a tweet. The group is discussing how language and information are used online for political influence, particularly by anti-vaccination campaigners in the middle of a pandemic. Today they are unpicking social media posts by the mother of a child with autism, who is falsely linking that condition with the MMR vaccine.

But these teenagers see through it. “She’s not a doctor,” one said. “She’s trying to say she knows something, but she doesn’t.”

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- Sophie Yeo
‘We’re basically starting from zero’: Restoring Finland’s river ecosystems

Rewilding teams are facing a huge task to encourage the return of wildlife after decades of damage by the forestry industry

Chopping down trees is not how most people would expect a river restoration project to begin, but Janne Raassina – who is expertly using a chainsaw to take down four or five earmarked trunks around the Särkkäjoki River in remotest eastern Finland – explains that the rotting wood will be hugely useful to the ecosystem.

“This is a huge buffet for insects, and it’s something that has been missing in our nature for 100 years,” he says. “We are creating the food chain from scratch.”

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- Imogen West-Knights
Scents and sensibility: what’s behind the rise of extreme smells?

From tomato-scented candles to perfumes reeking of intimate body parts, the world of smell is getting weirder. But are we ready to take our olfactory desires to the next level?

One night last week, I sat in my kitchen with my eyes closed, inhaling the rich, earthy scent of tomatoes. I felt transported: I was in an Italian garden, sun-dappled leaves swaying as I picked the plump, ripe fruit for a late pasta dinner with my large and beautiful family. I was, in essence, one of the puppets from the Dolmio adverts. But the smell wasn’t coming from a tomato. It was coming from a candle.

How did they make it smell so real? I called my boyfriend over to share in this miracle. He put his face right over the flame, said that it smelled like burnt nose hair and quickly lost interest. But I remained tickled by this magic trick. A candle, that smells like tomatoes!

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- John Nassoori
Do footballers lose motivation after signing long-term contracts?

Do players relax once they have secured lucrative deals – and do they up their game when a new contract is on the line?

By John Nassoori for The Set Pieces

Arsenal or Tottenham fans may not welcome the comparison but, in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Dele Alli, both north London clubs have players whose contracts have received more attention than their on-field performances. Is there any basis to the charge that long-term deals lead to a loss in motivation, though?

To some extent, the assumption that a player’s contribution wanes as soon as the ink dries on a new agreement is rooted in the idea that performances peak before a contract extension. Aubameyang is a case in point: criticism over the three-year deal he signed in September 2020 is partly due to his failure to maintain the phenomenally high standards he set during the 2019-20 campaign, when he scored 29 goals in 44 games, including match-winning contributions in both the FA Cup semi-final and final.

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- Guy Lodge
Streaming: Mass and other great single location films

Mass, about the meeting of two sets of parents after a school shooting, joins classics including Rope and My Dinner With Andre that thrive within the confines of a single set

“Stagey” is a term generally used as a slight against a film, evoking that stiff, musty sense of confinement so particular to a bad play. But it doesn’t have to be. Some films use the restrictions of theatre – a small cast, a single location – to match on camera the intensity and intimacy of live performance, fused with the very screen-specific benefits of the closeup. American actor turned director Fran Kranz’s impressive debut feature, Mass (now streaming on Sky Cinema), is one such film. Set entirely within a suburban Episcopal church, and mostly within the four walls of a bland function room, it is stagey in the tensest, tautest sense.

The setup is simple and wrenching: the church hall has been chosen as a neutral space for peace talks of a kind, between two sets of parents who are at once strangers to each other and inextricably connected by the tragedy of a school shooting – that most increasingly, queasily familiar of American atrocities. Depending on your point of view, there’s either much to be said here or nothing at all: eventually, they opt for the former, talking through waves and counter-waves of grief, guilt and white-hot anger.

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- Deborah Linton. Portraits: Fabio De Paola
‘I’m following a dream – giving people my soul food’: the global restaurants bringing life to British streets

These 15 small venues – all run or founded by immigrants to Britain – are part of the fabric of the nation’s high streets. But after two hellish years, can they survive?

Plus 15 great recipes – from Scandinavia to Tibet, via the Caribbean and Cambodia

Yotam Ottolenghi on his favourite ingredient

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