Socioeconomic Planning Secretary

December 18, 2019, 10:00 AM

NEDA Central Office Grounds, Pasig City


Ladies and gentlemen, present and continuing members of the NEDA family represented here by Chito Sobrepeña of the Metrobank Foundation, representative of Mayor Joy Belmonte of Quezon City, friends from the media, beloved colleagues from NEDA, good morning.

I am glad to see all of you again today as we review our progress for this year. Thank you for coming here despite the ongoing Christmas rush. I wanted to edit the theme of this 84th founding anniversary of NEDA. It should be “A More Engaged NEDA.” So that it covers everybody, not just the employees.

I am delighted that we will be closing this year upbeat in retrospect and optimistic looking forward. Still fresh in our minds is the successful hosting of the 30th Southeast Asian Games, where our country was crowned as the overall champion, garnering 149 gold medals, 117 silver medals, and 121 bronzess.

This just goes to show how much Filipinos can flourish and further blaze trails when they are given sufficient moral and financial support. This is exactly what the country’s long-term vision, AmBisyon Natin 2040, aims to do, and I believe that we have made significant progress in making this a reality for every Filipino.

The economy has continued to grow this year despite its initial slowdown in the first two quarters and the obstacles that were thrown its way — from the El Niño phenomenon that resulted in water shortages, the delay in the passage of the 2019 budget, to the US-China trade war, among other things.

The Philippines stayed as one of the best-performing economies in Asia posting a 6.2 percent growth in the third quarter this. We are the 2nd fastest growing major economy after Vietnam—ahead of China, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand.

In the first three quarters of 2019, we recorded a 5.8-percent growth rate, which is just slightly below the lower-end of the 6.0-6.5 percent full-year growth rate for 2019. This is backed by the robust growth in public spending, buoyant consumption spending amid the easing of inflation.

More importantly, growth has been more inclusive, as we were able to lift more Filipinos out of poverty in 2018 when population poverty incidence dropped to 16.6 percent of the population from 23.3 percent in 2015.  The number of poor Filipinos — or the magnitude of poverty — went down from 23.5 million Filipinos in 2015 to 17.6 million Filipinos in 2018. This means that we have lifted 5.9 million Filipinos from poverty between 2015 and 2018.

Prices, which are a major concern of ordinary Filipinos, have remained stable. Year-to-date headline inflation for 2019 stands at 2.5 percent, mainly driven by lower prices of food, primarily for and corn, relative to the previous year’s level. In the case of non-food items, the decline in global oil prices resulted in price rollbacks for domestic petroleum products.

In terms of employment, another major concern among Filipinos, our labor market remains strong with more and better quality jobs being created in the past three years. In fact, as of October 2019 Labor Force Survey, the country’s employment rate rose to 95.5 percent of the labor force, the highest in all previous October rounds of the Labor Force Survey in the last ten years. Our unemployment rate dropped from 5.1 percent in 2018 to 4.5 percent this year, the lowest in the last ten years. Even our underemployment rate eased to 13.0 percent from 13.3 percent in 2018.

Moreover, labor force participation rate improved to 61.5 percent, due to the increase in labor force participation among women.

We have also climbed up the Global Innovation Index rankings for 2019, jumping to the 54th place out of 129 economies, from 73rd in 2018. With our current efforts to provide incentives to innovative businesses and build our Science &Technology Innovation Ecosystem in general, we are optimistic that the country’s ranking in the Global Innovation Index will continue to improve.

In terms of trade and investments, we are currently pushing for the amendments to the Public Service Act, the Retail Trade Liberalization Act, and the Foreign Investment Act since these priority bills will support the expansion of foreign direct investment and trade opportunities in the Philippines.

To support and sustain inclusive growth through infrastructure, I am glad to report that the NEDA Board approved seven new projects during our last meeting amounting to PhP187.34 billion. Majority of these projects will be implemented outside Metro Manila, as we aim to develop growth centers in the regions and spread economic growth and development throughout the country.

Looking at these milestones in our journey, we see a stable economic performance for 2019, even as we remain vigilant and prepared to face risks such as the possible water shortages in 2020, weak global growth and stagnating world trade, disruptive technologies, and the volatility of oil prices. Our GDP growth is projected to be between 6.0 to 6.5 percent for 2019 and 6.5 to 7.5 percent in 2020 to 2022.

As Filipinos, there is much that we can look forward to in 2020, as we will continue to invest in the people’s future while addressing immediate and medium-term challenges.

For us in NEDA, as we celebrate the Socioeconomic Planning and Development Week, we are particularly excited about prospects as initiatives of legislators like Senator Sherwin Gatchalian and Representative Joey Salceda who filed and re-filed bills intended to instill a culture of planning and strengthen our organization, are now gaining ground. In this morning’s program, Assistant Secretary Carlos Abad Santos will talk more about this culture of planning in the government and I invite you to join in the discussion.

In 2020 and the coming years, I hope we will continue to have your support in enabling the Filipino family to enjoy a matatag, maginhawa at panatag na buhay sa Pilipinas.

Thank you and mabuhay tayong lahat!