WHILE the economy in Eastern Visayas, as measured by the Gross Regional Domestic Product (GRDP), slowed down from 12.4 percent in 2016 to 1.8 percent in 2017, top economic officials in the region remain “optimistic” that it will attain its regional goals of a “robust economy and less poverty” this year and onward.
"This growth is way below the target of 5.2 to 5.7 percent as indicated in the Eastern Visayas Regional Development Plan 2017-2022, and the lowest among 17 regions in the country," said lawyer Bonifacio Uy, regional director of National Economic and Development Authority (Neda), in a speech delivered by his assistant director, Meylene Rosales, on Thursday, April 26.
over a news conference on the 2017 Performance of the Eastern Visayas Regional Economy.
The overall growth rates are taken from three major sectors, namely, Agriculture, Hunting, Forestry, and Fishing; Industry; and Services.
“Growth was hampered by the contraction of the Industry sector at negative 1.7 percent,” the Neda director said in a statement.
In the previous year, the Industry sector posted 19.5 percent growth.
Wilma Perante, regional director of Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), said the contraction in the Industry sector was attributed to decline of the three subsectors: Electricity, Gas and Water Supply (EGWS) by 31 percent, Construction by 21.0 percent, and Mining and Quarrying by 12.3 percent.
The manufacturing subsectors in the Industry sector grew 13.2 percent.
The Leyte Industrial Development Estate (Lide) in Isabel, Leyte, the home of two giant export industries Philippine Associated Smelting and Refining Corporation and the Philippine Phosphate Fertilizer Corporation, “propelled the growth” of the manufacturing sector in 2017 as their exports products, like copper, continue their strong demand, with 22 percent price surge from the international market.
Neda noted on the effects of natural disasters such as the 6.5-magnitude earthquake in July 2017 that damaged the geothermal power plant in Leyte and resulted in total power shutdown in Eastern Visayas for three weeks and losses of P37.8 million by the power sector at the time.
Also, the region was hit by Typhoon Urduja in December 2017, which brought floods and landslides, destroying roads and bridges, particularly Samar and Biliran provinces, according to Neda.
"We have yet to recover from the adverse effects of these 2017 disasters," Neda said.
Even from Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) that pummeled the region in November 2013, some projects are still due for completion, especially resettlement, the agency added.
Neda also noted that from a remarkable 42.2 percent growth rate in 2016, the construction subsector nosedived to a negative growth of 21.0 percent.
“This is due to the reduction of both private and public construction activities. The delayed implementation of government Yolanda resettlement projects contributed to the decline in public construction. It was in 2016 when we saw the peak of construction activities alongside Yolanda rehabilitation and construction,” Neda said.
“Based on the trend, we observed through the value of output from the construction industry in 2017 is higher than that in the pre-Yolanda period. The challenge lies in increasing investments in construction that will eventually redound to higher economic growth,” it added.
Meanwhile, the PSA reported that growth in Service sector stood at 6.2 percent in 2017, slower than the 8.4 percent growth in 2016.
The Agriculture, Hunting, Forestry and Fishing “managed to grow, albeit, slower at 0.1 percent in 2017 as compared with the 2.4 percent growth posted in the previous year.”
“The Industry and Services equally shared the bulk of the regional economy with 42.6 percent and 42.5 percent, respectively,” Perante said.
With the sluggish economic growth in the region in 2017, Daniel Ariaso Sr., deputy national statistician of the Civil Registration and Central Support Office of PSA, urged the public not to be dismayed, saying the region just need to "work harder" for its future economic growth goals.
While noting that the region’s growth depends mostly on the manufacturing subsector brought by heavy industries in Lide, the economic officials have pushed for the promotion of “rural industrialization that will adopt and intensify industry clustering, and competitive and resilient industries, with more and stronger micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs),” along with continued development of Public-Private Partnership projects.
According to Neda, the proposed establishment of the Leyte Ecological Industrial Zone (Liez), which is in its pre-feasibility study stage, could be a start toward this goal.
Also, they pushed for more tourism and investment promotion through a business-friendly environment to “attract, expand, and sustain investments.”
Neda also hoped for the reversal of the region’s economic growth in 2017 through the “Build, Build, Build” program of President Rodrigo Duterte's administration.
“The Tourism Road Infrastructure Program (Trip) and the Roads Leveraging Linkages for Industry and Trade (Roll It) Program will enhance connectivity to production areas, thereby boosting tourism and industries in the region,” Neda said.
Neda reported that the region has identified over 2,000 proposed priority programs and projects that will address the pressing issues in Eastern Visayas.
The government, however, needs to improve fund utilization across sectors to speed up its implementation, it added. (SunStar Philippines)