May 30, 2019

The economic growth of the regions remains robust, albeit along with widening disparities,  which the government continues to address, the National Economic and Development Authority said.

Based on Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) data, 12 regions exceeded the GDP growth rate of 6.2 percent in 2018.

Among all regions, Bicol region posted the highest growth rate of 8.9 percent, followed by Davao and MIMAROPA both at 8.6 percent.

Public construction, which rose 70 percent in 2018, propelled growth in Bicol. This includes the construction and improvement of access roads to tourism areas, widening of inter-regional and inter-provincial roads, and other public works.

Private construction activities also went up with the completion of various malls and hotels in major city centers.

Meanwhile, Caraga, Cagayan Valley and the National Capital Region posted the lowest growth rates at 3.2 percent, 3.3 percent, and 4.8 percent, respectively.

The slowdown in mining and quarrying, wood-based manufacturing, construction, and transportation, storage, and communication, contributed to the deceleration of Caraga’s economic growth. In Cagayan Valley, its vulnerability to natural calamities was a major hurdle to growth.

Meanwhile, in Metro Manila, wholesale and retail trade supported its growth but was tempered by the slight decline in the manufacturing sector.

Navarro noted that no region was consistently the highest nor the lowest in the past three years. Eastern Visayas had the highest growth rate in 2016, CAR in 2017, and Bicol in 2018.

NEDA’s estimates also showed that regional disparities or inequality in income per capita across regions widened over time. Using 2009 to 2018 data from the PSA, NEDA estimated that the dispersion of regional real per capita Gross Domestic Product increased during the period.

“The government has to continually increase its efforts in pushing for regional and rural development. We need to improve connectivity across regions and enhance the efficiency of transport, communications, and overall logistics network. Poor regions must catch up fast,” NEDA Officer-in-Charge and Undersecretary Adoracion M. Navarro said.

“All stakeholders must also help the government in expediently implementing the Build, Build, Build program, which will boost regional growth and reduce the gaps across the regions,” she said.

“As widening disparities may be more a result of high rate of population growth in some regions than poor economic performance per se, stakeholders especially local government units must also support the government’s family planning and reproductive health program,” she also said

She also stressed that since the regions with very low GRDP per capita are also the regions that have large agricultural bases, the government has to give greater focus on improving the productivity of the agriculture and fisheries sector in the regions.

“We have to integrate small farmers and fisherfolk into larger business enterprises. This is apart from other strategies like farm diversification, which will help farmers venture into commodities with higher value and market potential,” Navarro said.