Good day. Here are the stories from the Manila Times for Saturday, February 19, 2022, brought to you by Wilcon Depot, the nation’s leading home improvement and building supplies retailer. Conveniently shop 24/7 with the Wilcon online store, just go to shop.wilcon.com.ph.

READ: PH ‘overcame’ worst Covid surge

The Philippines has “overcome” its worst coronavirus outbreak of 2019 (Covid-19), which was caused by the highly infectious variant of Omicron, according to the Department of Health (DoH). Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said on Friday that daily Covid-19 cases had been halved in just two weeks. From 6,034 cases from February 4 to 10, it rose to 2,876 cases from February 11 to 17, Vergeire said. On Friday, the DoH reported 2,232 new cases of Covid-19, a significant drop. Omicron had the largest and fastest surge among the variants, but it was also the fastest to subside, she said.

READ: PNP: Agents can’t participate in poster removal

THE Philippine National Police (PNP) has made it clear that its personnel are only authorized to provide security assistance, and not to participate in the removal of illegally posted campaign materials. Images of police officers helping teams from the Electoral Commission (Comelec) to dismantle electoral material displayed on the walls and fences of private residences in Echague, Isabela have spread on social networks. Comelec has been criticized for not fully explaining its rules on exactly where election material could be legally displayed.

READ: Congressman charged with QC housing anomaly

QUEZON City Representative Alfredo Vargas has been indicted before the Ombudsman’s Office for an allegedly fraudulent housing scheme initiated by his office. Lawyer Rhodora Corpuz filed the complaint on behalf of the 500 families who claimed they were defrauded by Vargas. In a statement released by his office on Friday, Vargas denied the charges.

READ: Cimatu resigns due to health reasons

ENVIRONMENT Secretary Roy Cimatu has resigned from his post for health reasons, Malacañang announced on Friday. Acting Palace spokesman Karlo Alexei Nograles said Undersecretary for Environment Jim Sampluna had been named the officer in charge of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

READ: 3 airmen die in EDSA car crash

THREE members of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) died while another was seriously injured after their car accidentally hit the concrete barriers along the EDSA in Quezon City early Friday morning. The deaths were identified as Airman 1st Class Sabado Angelo, Airman 1st Class Aaron Tabarle and Airman 1st Class Kyle Justine Velasco while Airman 2nd Class Manuel Ognes was still being treated at a hospital due to serious injuries, said the initial report from Traffic Sector 4 of the District Traffic Control Unit. The investigation showed that Cognes was driving a Honda City with license plate NDR-7213 with the other three on board along the south lane of the EDSA coming from the direction of rue P. Tuazon and heading towards the direction of Ortigas Avenue at around 1:59 a.m. The accident happened at the corner of North Road, Barangay Bagong Lipunan ng Crame.

BUSINESS: PH credit rating retained

On business, the Philippines’ BBB credit rating was picked by Fitch Ratings with a negative outlook, citing the country’s strong economic and external position, as well as weak structural issues. The Philippines’ external finances remain a credit strength, Fitch pointed out, with foreign exchange reserves of $109 billion at the end of 2021, just below $110 billion in 2020 and well above the levels of pre-pandemic, through proceeds from international borrowing, multilateral sources of supply and an upward adjustment in the value of the gold holdings of Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

SPORTS: Alaska is for sale but are there any takers?

In sports, we discuss the continuation of the Alaska Aces PBA franchise, after announcing that they are leaving the PBA after more than 30 years. This story discusses who will take over the team after its owner announced that he would be selling the franchise.

READ: Opinion and Editorial

Antonio Contreras and Yen Makabenta are the front-page columnists today. Contreras notes that the Marcos never left, while Makabenta thinks Comelec should do some research before doing marathon debates.

Today’s editorial believes that the anti-vaxxer rhetoric should be challenged. Read a full version in the opinion section of the newspaper or listen to the voice of the times.

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On behalf of the Manila Times, this is the report by Aric John Sy Cua. Have a safe weekend.