NEDA VIII Regional Director

Press Conference on the 2017 Performance of the
Eastern Visayas Regional Economy
Hotel Alejandro, Tacloban City
26 April 2018, 10:00 AM

Partners from the government and private sector, members of the media, guests, ladies and gentlemen, good morning.

As earlier presented by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), the Eastern Visayas’ economy, as measured by the Gross Regional Domestic Product (GRDP), grew by 1.8 percent, although much slower than in 2016 when it posted an acceleration of 12.0 percent. While we sustained a positive growth, this is way below the 2017 growth target of 5.2 to 5.7 percent set in the Eastern Visayas Regional Development Plan (RDP) 2017-2022, and the lowest among the 17 regions in the country.

Growth was hampered by the contraction of the Industry sector at negative 1.7 percent, as value added production from construction, mining, and electricity, gas, and water supply reduced. While we missed the median growth rate target of 5.25 percent, the Industry sector nonetheless contributed the largest share of 42.6 percent to the regional economy.

Though slow, the Manufacturing subsector registered the only positive growth among the Industry subsectors. The resurgence of the region’s exports, manifested by the significant increase in the value of copper cathodes from the Leyte Industrial Development Estate (LIDE), propelled the growth of the Manufacturing subsector in 2017. Copper prices have surged more than 22 percent during the year on the back of a strong demand from the global market.

We took note that in 2017, we were not spared from the effects of natural disasters. The 6.5 magnitude earthquake that we experienced in the middle of the year damaged the facilities of the geothermal power plant in Leyte, resulting in total power shutdown in the region for three (3) weeks. Losses incurred by the power sector at that time were pegged at PhP37.8 million based on the Post-Disaster Needs Assessment conducted in Ormoc, Kananga, Carigara and Jaro – the LGUs directly hit by the earthquake.

And then before the year ended, Typhoon Urduja came, causing flooding and landslides in some parts of the region. National roads and bridges were destroyed, particularly in Samar and Biliran.

We have yet to recover from the adverse effects of these 2017 disasters. Even from Yolanda, some projects are still due for completion, especially resettlement.

From a remarkable 42.2 percent growth in 2016, the construction subsector nosedived to a negative growth of 21.0 percent. This is due to the reduction of both private and public construction activities. The delayed implementation of government Yolanda resettlement projects contributed to the decline in public construction. It was in 2016 when we saw the peak of construction activities alongside Yolanda rehabilitation and reconstruction. Based on trend, we observed though that the value of output from the construction industry in 2017 is higher than that in the pre-Yolanda period. The challenge lies in increasing investments in construction that will eventually redound to higher economic growth.

The Service sector remained strong with a 6.2 percent growth. This is, however, another shortfall as against the RDP 2017 target of 6.5 to 6.9 percent. The growth of the Service sector was manifest in the flourishing business activities in the region, especially in the wholesale and retail subsector. Also, the increase in tourist expenditures on the demand side could be taken as an indication of a growing tourism sector. Overall, this is a positive note since the Service sector absorbs the majority of the region’s workforce.

A meager growth of 0.1 percent was a result of the contrasting performance of the agriculture and forestry and fishing subsectors. The agriculture and forestry subsector grew by 2.8 percent, higher than the previous year’s 1.8 percent, which is attributed to higher production value of most crops. The fishing subsector, on the other hand, downscaled by negative 10.1 percent as a result of the reduction in commercial fisheries, brought by the intensified patrol operations, inclement weather and decrease in the number of licensed commercial fishing vessels.

Moving forward, the great challenge continues. The performance of the Manufacturing subsector alone tells us that our economy remains dependent on the heavy industries in the region’s manufacturing economic zone. To avert this, we have to strongly push for the diversification and expansion of the manufacturing subsector as emphasized in the RDP. Along this line, we need to promote rural industrialization that will adopt and intensify industry clustering, and competitive and resilient industries, with more and stronger micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). The proposed establishment of the Leyte Ecological Industrial Zone (LIEZ), which is in its pre-Feasibility Study stage, could be a start towards this goal.

In relation, we also see the need to intensify investment promotion activities in response to the administration’s priority on regional development as a means of spreading out economic growth. We need to market to private investors the competitive advantage of the region in agribusiness, manufacturing, and tourism to entice them to pour investments in Eastern Visayas. These three sectors are our entry points to catalyze inclusive growth by generating more livelihood and job opportunities for our people. To facilitate this, the government must ensure a business-friendly environment to attract, expand, and sustain investments.

Along the premise of bringing services within the reach of our stakeholders and fostering partnership with the private sector, the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Center and the NEDA Regional Offices recently launched the PPP Knowledge Corner (KC) in the regions. Through the said KC, the development of PPP projects will be facilitated.

Growth in agriculture and forestry needs to be sustained while shrinkage in the fishing sector must be arrested. It is already a given that Region VIII is highly vulnerable to natural hazards that oftentimes lead to disasters. Thus, we should put in place climate and disaster risk-resilient mechanisms throughout the sector’s production chain. The Adoption and Mitigation Initiative in Agriculture (AMIA) project, which aims to address or mitigate the effects of climate change in the A&F sector, should be strictly adopted in the detailed strategic planning for the sector.

To enhance the region’s capacity and growth potential, infrastructure development must be pursued. The stalwart performance we had in 2016, which was largely due to the remarkable growth of the construction subsector, should encourage us to push for more construction investments in the region. The Tourism Road Infrastructure Program (TRIP) and the Roads Leveraging Linkages for Industry and Trade (ROLL IT) Program will enhance connectivity to production areas, thereby boosting tourism and industries in the region. We should also leverage on the Build, Build, Build Program of the Duterte Administration.

Moreover, we need to push for the implementation of priority programs and projects (PPs) in the region, as contained in the Regional Development Investment Program (RDIP) 2017-2022, a companion document of the RDP. In the short term, particularly in 2019, we identified over 2,000 proposed PPs which will address the pressing issues in the region. Some of these PPs include inter-island bridges, storm surge protection, flood control system, establishment of economic zone, irrigation projects, agricultural and fishery machinery, equipment, and facilities support services, farm-to-market network, production support services, among others. These PPs were supported and endorsed by the Regional Development Council (RDC) VIII. However, the government needs to improve fund utilization across sectors to hasten project implementation.

We remain optimistic that as long as there is strong government and private sector collaboration, we still have a greater chance of attaining our regional goals of a robust economy and less poverty. Damo nga salamat. Uswag, Eastern Visayas!