(as delivered by NEDA Deputy Director-General Margarita Songco)

Hotel Intercontinental Manila
July 30, 2013, 11:00 a.m.

Good afternoon. 

I am honored to be here today, and I thank the National Competitiveness Council for inviting the NEDA to this summit. 

Today, we witnessed the efforts of the NCC, together with the Regional Competitiveness Committees, bear fruit with the release of the First Local Competitiveness Index. To the National Competitiveness Council and to the Regional Competitiveness Committees, congratulations.

This initiative is not only timely but critical in the country’s efforts to attract investments and encourage development in the countryside. Currently, 62% of the entire country’s economic growth is concentrated in Metro Manila, CALABARZON, and Central Luzon. Achieving inclusive growth therefore demands development in the periphery through integration of the lagging areas or regions with the fast-growing, leading areas or regions of the country. 

Spreading economic growth to the regions will provide alternatives to investors who would be able to take advantage of the resources and unique attributes offered by different regions. For the people, it would mean better opportunities for employment, and having the ability to provide for a better life for their families. This will also give people more chances to contribute to the development of their community and their country. This is why increasing competitiveness and attracting investments to the regions are so crucial in our drive to generate employment and reduce poverty in rural areas. 

We need an impetus that will encourage new businesses to open in areas where development is most needed. The index will contribute to this, as it gives local government units the information to properly direct their efforts to specific areas. As other centers of development are created, we encourage growth not only in these regions but in the whole country. Last week, the 2012 estimates of the Gross Regional Domestic Product was released by the National Statistical Coordination Board. Zamboanga Peninsula registered the fastest growth among the country’s 17 regions. This impressive performance was brought about by the accelerated growth of the Industry and Services sectors. The top five fastest growing regions in 2012 also included Caraga with 10.6 percent; Central Visayas, 9.3 percent; Cagayan Valley, 8.2 percent; and SOCCSKSARGEN with 8.1 percent. We need to sustain economic growth of the regions in order to achieve inclusive growth. The PDP: 2011-2016 and the various regional development plans have thus identified priority industries, which are seen to have the highest growth potentials and can generate the most jobs. For the remaining Plan period, more emphasis will be given to employment generating sectors such as manufacturing, agriculture, tourism, IT-BPO, agri-business, and housing. Infrastructure projects have been programmed to support growth in these industries in the peripheral regions. 

The index will also build on the government’s efforts to increase the country’s ranking to the top 1/3 of the Ease Of Doing Business Report by creating a better business environment, among other initiatives. As of the first quarter of 2013, 926 local government units (LGUs) or fifty-seven (57) percent of all 1,634 LGUs in the country have streamlined their processes and reduced the time to register businesses to 5 days for new applications and 10 days for renewal. Likewise, the Philippine Business Registry has reduced average processing time to register businesses to 30 minutes. 

As local governments use the Index as a tool to identify areas that need support and implement targeted programs that will make it easier to conduct business across the countryside, it will create a ripple effect that will have an impact on all areas of the economy. 

This afternoon only marks the beginning of the work that each of us needs to do to increase the country’s competitiveness. When these efforts reach fruition, we would have worked together not only to increase our ranking in the report, but more importantly, to provide our people with the opportunities to change their circumstances. In so doing, we will make inclusive growth not only a goal, but a reality. 

Thank you and have a good afternoon.