KUWTT: 3% agri growth seen this year Mar 26, 2021

Good day. Here are the stories for The Manila Times for Friday, March 26, 2021.

READ: 3% agri growth seen this year

PHILIPPINE agriculture will grow up to 3 percent this year, significantly higher than the 2.5-percent growth target set by the Department of Agriculture (DA), a prominent economist forecast Thursday. Speaking at The Manila Times forum, “Prospects of agriculture beyond the Covid pandemic,” Bernardo Villegas, one of the founders of the Center for Research and Communication, was upbeat on the agriculture and fishery sector, despite the setbacks brought about by the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic and African swine fever. He noted how the government, during these difficult times, was finally focusing on programs to achieve food security, which he considers a major issue that has been neglected for years.

READ: P75B to reboot coco trust fund

THE initial rollout of government programs meant for the coconut sector through the much-awaited utilization of the P75-billion coconut trust fund is expected to begin by the third quarter of 2021, according to Agriculture Secretary William Dar. Speaking at The Manila Times forum, “Prospects of agriculture beyond the Covid pandemic,” on Thursday, Dar said the newly constituted Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) Board was fast-tracking the completion of a farmers registry and the creation of the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan. This is aligned with the provisions of Republic Act (RA) 11524 or the “Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act,” which President Rodrigo Duterte signed on February 26.

READ: Deadlier Covid variant found in India

India’s federal health ministry said a new and deadlier “double mutant variant” of Covid-19 has been detected in more than a dozen states across the country, in addition to many other strains or variants of concern (VOCs) that have also been found abroad. So far, 771 VOCs have been detected in 10,787 positive samples shared by the states, including the variants first detected in Britain, South Africa and Brazil respectively, said the ministry.

READ: PH posts new record: 8,773 infections

The country posted another record on Thursday when the Department of Health reported 8,773 new Covid-19 cases, eclipsing the 8,019 tallied on Monday, pushing the total overall cases at 693,048. There are now 99,891 active cases, pushing the overall hospital capacity to its limit, with intensive care unit beds at 74-percent occupancy. Isolation beds are at 66-percent occupancy while ward beds are 52-percent occupied. Fifty-one percent of mechanical ventilators are also being used. Positivity rate was at 16.1 percent. Despite the high active case count, 98.4 percent remain mild, moderate or asymptomatic. The DoH said 574 patients survived the virus for a total of 580,062 recoveries. However, 56 more patients died, pushing the death toll to 13,095.

READ: Palace backs Go’s expanded SAP

Malacañang on Thursday expressed support to Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go’s proposal for additional assistance to poor households following the reimposition of a stricter quarantine in Metro Manila and four outlying provinces. In a virtual press briefing, Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said they agreed with Go, but noted that the government must first use up the cash subsidy under Republic Act (RA) 11494 or the “Bayanihan to Recover as One Act” or “Bayanihan 2.” Bayanihan 2 is an extension of Bayanihan to Heal as one Act or Bayanihan 1, which provided the government with funds and additional powers to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

READ: Senate ratifies bicam lifeline rates report

LOW-INCOME households can look forward to a continued subsidy in their electric bills in the next 30 years should the proposed law that will extend the lifeline rates for the poor is passed. During its last plenary session before going on recess on Wednesday, the Senate ratified a bicameral conference committee report endorsing for final approval Senate Bill 1877 and House Bill 8145 that would amend Section 73 of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira) of 2001. Both measures bat for the extension of the implementation of subsidized electricity rate or lifeline rate to qualified marginalized consumers who cannot afford to pay their electric power consumption at full cost. In particular, these are households consuming not more than 100 kilowatt hour or less per month. The so-called lifeline rate is a subsidy shouldered by nonlifeline rate consumers.

READ: Variants prompt Navotas to tighten restrictions

NAVOTAS City Mayor Tobias “Toby” Tiangco on Thursday ordered the implementation of stricter measures after the Department of Health confirmed 10 cases of B117 or the United Kingdom Covid-19 variant and a single case of B1351 or South African variant in the city. Tiangco said gyms, fitness centers, spas, massage parlors and internet cafes will be temporarily closed from March 24 to April 4, 2021, unless otherwise extended.

BUSINESS: BSP maintains key interest rates

Topping business, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) has retained its key interest rates at their record low on Thursday despite forecasting above-target average inflation rate this year. Overnight borrowing, lending and deposit rates were kept at 2.00 percent, 1.50 percent and 2.50 percent, respectively, following the central bank’s policymaking Monetary Board’s second rate-setting policy meeting for 2021.

SPORTS: Nabong back home with Blackwater

In sports, veteran forward Kelly Nabong found another opportunity to stay in the pro league after Blackwater Bossing tapped his services for the coming Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Season 46. The 6-foot-4 Nabong will actually make a homecoming with the Ever Bilena, the same franchise where he played during his D-League days. Blackwater and Nabong agreed to a short-term deal on Wednesday, leading to the spirited player’s return to PBA after he was left unsigned by former team NorthPort Batang Pier.

READ: Opinion and editorial

Rigoberto Tiglao and Ruben Torres are today’s front page columnists. Tiglao hits the politicization of the Covid-19 pandemic, while Torres asks if President Rodrigo Duterte is a lame duck.

Today’s editorial talks about the recent Manila Times agriculture forum. Read a full version on the paper’s opinion section or listen to the Voice of the Times.

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With Dafort Villaseran, this is Aric John Sy Cua reporting. May you have a safe Friday ahead.