The Philippines is ranked 73rd in the 2017 Global Innovation Index Report, making the country as one of the new “Asian Tigers” and leaders in information, communication and technology service exports in Southeast Asia.
Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia says the Philppine economic growth has been high and steady.
With a 6.7 percent growth in gross domestic product (GDP) in 2017, the economy accelerated further by 6.8 percent in the first quarter this year, making the Philippines one of the fastest growing economies in Asia, next to India (7.7%) and Vietnam (7.4%), and at par with China (6.8%).
Secretary Pernia noted that the Philippine economy is undergoing structural transformation as growth is increasingly being driven by investments, consumption on the demand side and the industry, manufacturing and services sector.
“The resurgence of the manufacturing sector is especially noteworthy, with the volume of production expanding by 20 percent in May 2018, sustaining its double-digit growth since the start of the year” says Secretary Pernia.
“This means that the quality of economic growth is improving, which implies that it is sustainable and able to generate quality jobs.”
The Philippine government’s massive infrastructure program “Build, Build, Build” is expected to fuel growth over the years as spending would rise to 7.3 percent of GDP on public infrastructure by 2022.
The government expects to complete 32 of 75 flagship projects by the end of 2022. The Philippines’ gross national income (GNI) per capita also grew annually by 4.8 percent in 2017 against its target of 4.5 percent growth for the year.
The emergency unconditional cash transfer (UCT) program of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has showed positive results on typhoon Yolanda victims, according to a study by state think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS).
The UCT program, UNICEF’s first cash transfer program in the Philippines, provided monthly cash assistance of US$100 (5,000 pesos) to 10,000 Yolanda-affected families living in Tacloban City and neighboring municipalities from February 2014 to July 2014.
The six-month program targeted households with pregnant and lactating women, children suffering from moderate and severe acute malnutrition or at risk of malnutrition, persons with disabilities and chronic illness, elderly persons, single mothers and households hosting separated children.
In the study, authors Celia Reyes, Jose Ramon Albert, and Charina Cecille Reyes stressed that the UCT is different from the government’s conditional cash transfer program, because the former does not impose any conditions on the beneficiaries to allow them to address the specific needs of their respective households.
The authors asserted that contrary to the negative perception of cash transfer programs, the UCT has actually been a big help to beneficiary households in various aspects of the victims’ recovery.
In terms of health and nutrition, the beneficiaries had spent more than half of the cash assistance on food which resulted in significant decline in the prevalence of malnutrition among children from 5 percent to about 1 to 2 percent.
The program was also able to increase the average monthly income of beneficiaries, but the authors noted that it drastically declined when the grant ended, with some households falling back into poverty. While the unemployment rate was reduced when the program ended, the number of children engaged in economic activity grew.
It also improved the educational status of children in affected areas, but school attendance slightly decreased when the program ended.
Overall, the program’s effect on the recovery of beneficiaries was more evident for those who used part of their cash transfer for livelihood or savings. However, they also emphasized that while it had yielded positive results, six months of assistance may not have been long enough for some households to get back on their feet.
Based on the UCT’s experience, similar programs in the future should consider setting up more accessible distribution points and generating local level data for targeting of beneficiaries. It is also important to consider that cash transfer programs are more useful when supply chains have been restored.
The Philippine merchandise trade grew by 5.1 percent to US$ 15.2 billion in May 2018, backed by imports that rose by 11.4 percent and tempered by the slight decline in exports.
The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported that the May imports were driven by increased inbound purchases of mineral fuels, lubricants and related materials, capital goods, consumer goods, and raw materials and intermediate goods.
On the other hand, the contraction in merchandise exports slowed to 3.8 percent in May 2018 from 4.9 percent in April, partly supported by sustained growth in exports of forest products.
Among the major commodity groups, only forest products posted gains (77.8%) to register their 19th month of consecutive growth.
Exports of plywood grew by 167.8 percent, with shipments sent mainly to Japan and the U.S. Exports of lumber grew by 49.8 percent, which were shipped mainly to Japan and China. In the five months to May, receipts of forest products totalled US$94.8 million, 98 percent higher than the comparable period in 2017.
Agro-based products, manufactures, mineral and petroleum products continued to register negative growth so that total merchandise exports fell for a fifth consecutive month in May.
Electronic products, which accounted for 64.9 percent of manufactures exports in May, registered a slight gain of 2.3 percent.
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia said that addressing cumbersome regulations, enhancing trade facilitation, and ensuring better access to trade finance will help improve the country’s business climate for exports.
“The recent passage of the Ease of Doing Business Act of 2018 should promote trade as it aims to reduce bureaucracy and corruption, factors which weigh down on economic activity. Its timely implementation is needed to improve trade facilitation,” Pernia said.
He added that opportunities from free trade agreements (FTAs) should also be maximized by facilitating programs that will increase awareness of industry players on the benefits of these agreements.
The recent ratification of the Philippines-European Free Trade Association FTA would boost exports to member states such as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Sweden.
“Successful negotiations for the PH-EU FTA are expected to secure more permanent preferential duties for Philippine export products compared with the EU generalized system of preferences (EU GSP+), thus further expanding market base,” Pernia said.
Vehicle auto parts, coconut, bananas, travel goods and handbags, tuna, carrageenan, and activated carbon should be given better exposure as these could potentially become major drivers of exports growth.
The World Bank has maintained its 6.7 percent growth forecast for the Philippine economy in 2019 despite rising global uncertainty.
In its latest Philippine economic update, the World Bank has revised Philippine government consumption growth upwards, while private consumption growth is expected to expand at 5.9 percent in 2018 and 6.2 percent in 2019.
Investment growth was slightly upgraded due to higher public capital outlays, including increased infrastructure spending. Overall, the World Bank expects real gross domestic product (GDP) growth to increase towards the end of 2018 and into the first half of 2019 with higher election-related public spending.
World Bank lead economist for the Philippines Birgit Hansl says the Philippine government’s ability to carry out its investment agenda would determine if the Philippines could achieve its growth target of 6.5 to 7.5 percent over the medium term.
“Higher private investment levels would be critical to sustain the Philippine economy’s growth momentum as capacity constraints become more binding,” says Hansl.
Exports, a key driver of growth for the Philippines economy, are projected to moderate in the coming years as global growth is expected to decelerate.
The World Bank’s June 2018 Global Economic Prospects projected a gradual global slowdown over the next two years with moderately higher commodity prices, strong but gradually moderating global demand, and incremental tightening of global financing conditions.
Uncertainty around global growth conditions has risen, with the possibility of trade and other policy shocks emerging from major economies.
The first Airbus A350-900 jet of Philippine Airlines touches down at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport on July 15 to a water salute welcome after a 13-hour non-stop flight from Blagnac Airbus Delivery Center, Toulouse, France, carrying PAL officials led by PAL President Jaime J. Bautista and Philippine media. The ultra long-range jet – fitted with luxurious cabin amenities –will fly non-stop to New York starting October 2018.
The Manila International Container Terminal (MICT), the Philippines’ biggest container terminal has acquired a pair of Neo-Panamax and Post-Panamax quay cranes.
Philippine Ports Authority general manager Jay Daniel Santiago expects the new cranes would boost the capability of the MICT and guarantee a congestion-free international container terminal.
“This is by far the biggest crane that any port in the Philippines that would enable the port to handle ships with capacity of up to 14,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs),” Santiago said.
“We expect other ports to follow suit as we continue to drive towards our vision of a globally competitive port by 2020,” Santiago stressed.
The new quay cranes were manufactured by Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industry Co., Ltd. (ZPMC). The quay cranes are part of International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI)’s $80 million capital equipment program for MICT.
The pair of Neo-Panamax cranes and the Post-Panamax crane will be positioned at Berths 6 and 5.
Upon full commissioning, MICT customers can expect quayside productivity gains that would translate to shorter port stays.
Aside from these pair of cranes, MICT is still set to receive 8 Rubber Tire Gantry (RTG) Cranes by November 2018 and two quay cranes next year.
With the new acquisitions, the MICT now has a total of 16 quay cranes, the largest fleet in the country.
In December 2016, MICT reached its first two million TEUs move, triggering a multi-billion-peso capacity improvement commitment with the PPA, in line with the growing consolidation trend among major carriers and the advent of larger vessels.
The Rotary Club of Manila has awarded Philippine Airlines (PAL) President Jaime J. Bautista (3rd from left) the Tourism Hall of Fame Award for his long-standing contribution to tourism promotions as prime mover of PAL’s efforts to pioneer tourism worldwide. Presenting the award, from left, are Rotarian Farid Schoucair, General Manager of New World Makati Hotel, Rotarian Bobby Joseph, Chairman of Rotary Club of Manila Tourism Award Committee and Rotary Club of Manila President Jimmie Policarpio.
Philippine Airlines (PAL) has acquired the first Airbus A350-900, shown here taking off from the Airbus assembly plant at Toulouse Blagnac airport in France on June 7. The ultra-modern aircraft, due for delivery in mid-July, will be deployed on PAL’s long-haul routes to Europe and the North American east coast.
The World Bank (WB) has recommended some policy directions that would further cut poverty in the Philippines by 13 to 15 percent in 2022.
In its poverty assessment, the WB has urged the Philippine government to create more better jobs, improve productivity in all sections particularly agriculture, equip Filipinos with skills needed for the economy and invest in health and nutrition.
The WB also recommended that the government should focus its poverty reduction efforts in Mindanao and manage disaster risks and protect the vulnerable sector of the economy.
In its report titled, “Making Growth work for the Poor: A Poverty Assessment for the Philippines,” the WB noted that the Philippines is well-placed to speed up poverty reduction with its solid economic fundamentals.
“The challenge is to provide more economic opportunities, which would help many more people earn higher and stable incomes,” says the report.
The Philippines’ robust economic growth has helped the poverty rate to fall by five percentage points from 2006 to 2015 to 21.6 percent due to the expansion of jobs, government transfers through the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino program and dollar remittances.
World Bank country director for Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand Mara Warwick is optimistic that “with a strong economy, the country is well-placed to end the vicious cycles of unequal opportunity that trap people in poverty, set in place measures to improve service delivery and boost job opportunities.”
The WB report noted that some 22 million Filipinos—more than one-fifth of the population—still live below the national poverty line in 2015.
Constraints to achieving faster poverty reduction, according to the report, include the less pro-poor pattern of growth, high inequality of income and opportunities and the adverse impacts of natural disasters and conflict.
Most poor Filipinos have low levels of education and live in large households headed by individuals who are self-employed or work in agriculture as laborers or smallholder producers.
The poorest households are those dependent on agriculture as their main source of income and most of them live in the countryside, in areas prone to disasters or in the conflict-affected areas of Mindanao.
Senior economist Xubei Luo at the WB’s Poverty and Equity Global Practice says that increasing public investment in Mindanao to boost development would expand opportunities for the conflict-affected communities, broaden access to services and create more and better jobs.
Inequitable investment in human capital and insufficient well-paying job opportunities trap the poor in poverty across generations, the report explains. High concentrations of wealth constrain equal opportunities and access to services, which are necessary for inclusive growth. Natural disasters disproportionately and repeatedly batter the poorest regions of the country, miring them in higher levels of poverty.