The regional economy contracted by 7.6 percent in 2020 according to the latest data released by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) VIII and the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) during the virtual news conference on the 2020 Regional Accounts of the Philippines held on 29 April 2021.

In his statement on the economic performance of the region, NEDA VIII Regional Director Bonifacio G. Uy explained that the contraction was due to the COVID-19 pandemic whose effects were felt worldwide.

“Unfortunately, the onset of COVID-19, an unexpected and unfamiliar global health pandemic, disrupted our growth momentum. The imposition of community quarantines to halt the spread of the virus has come at a heavy cost to the economy. The gains that we amassed in the last five (5) years were set back as the region, just like the entire country and the rest of the world, continues to experience shocks from this pandemic and the ensuing containment and mitigation measures.” said Director Uy.

This contraction stands in stark contrast to the five consecutive years of economic growth that the region has enjoyed between 2014 and 2019. In 2019, the regional economy expanded by 5.6 percent driven by sustained growth in the Services sector.

Despite the decline, Director Uy remains optimistic about the region’s prospects in 2021. He pointed to the continued vaccine rollout as one of the primary catalysts that will help the region’s economy recover as more and more businesses can reopen.

“The vaccination deployment will lead to the reopening of more businesses and the relaxation of age group restrictions. This will redound to added economic activities and save more jobs to provide income for our people,” explained Director Uy.

He also emphasized the government’s continued efforts to support those affected by the pandemic from improving the country’s digital infrastructure, to hastening the rollout of the national ID, and the improved targeted mitigating measures to help those who are heavily affected by the pandemic.

Looking forward, he stressed that while the adverse effects of COVID-19 are felt deeply in society, there are opportunities and lessons that Eastern Visayas can seize upon to get back on track.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is indeed unprecedented and that its adverse effects are protracted. It is not only a public health crisis but also an economic one, affecting the society and economy at their core. Nonetheless, like any other crises, it presents opportunities and lessons that the region should seize and build upon. Let us all continue to work together to recover strongly and collectively towards a healthy and resilient region.”

Article and Photos by:  Knulp Aseo and NEDA VIII-PFPD