THE Philippines could still achieve its economic growth target of 6.5 to 7 percent this year despite the external risks, the Department of Finance (DOF) said Monday.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III cited the robust domestic economy with a healthy foreign exchange (forex) buffer, a strong banking system and a young, educated work force as among the key factors that will sustain the Philippines’ high gross domestic product (GDP).

Even global financial shocks, such as rising US interest rates and the possible surge of protectionist policies in certain countries that could affect trade, would not unduly threaten the economy, as the Philippines is not largely reliant on external trade as a growth driver, he said.

“I’m quite confident that this coming year, we will achieve the growth rates that we have set for ourselves, and that we will be in pretty good shape,” Dominguez said.

The DOF chief cited the country’s GDP expansion of 6.8 percent in 2016 pointed to a domestic economy in “pretty good shape” and well on its way to sustaining its growth momentum over the medium term, on the back of the Duterte administration’s bold initiatives to keep it on its upward trajectory despite global market volatility.

Dominguez said this gave the DOF all the more reason to aggressively engage in its proposed Comprehensive Tax Reform Program (CTRP)—and the Congress to swiftly act on it—so the Duterte government could raise enough funds for its public spending program on infrastructure, human capital and social protection that would keep the Philippines among Asia’s fastest-growing economies in the years ahead.

Dominguez said the Philippines’ economic outlook remains highly positive, with the country having more than enough forex reserves to service its foreign debt.

“We have a very strong banking system. We have a population that is young, educated, healthy and very enthusiastic. So I think our domestic economy is well positioned to grow between 6.5 percent and 7 percent as most institutions have predicted,” Dominguez said. (SDR/SunStar Philippines)