ATTY. BONIFACIO G. UY
NEDA VIII Regional Director
NEWS CONFERENCE ON THE 2020 REGIONAL ACCOUNTS OF THE PHILIPPINES
29 April 2021 | 10:00 AM
Assistant National Statistician Wilma Guillen, PSA VIII RD Wilma Perante, PIA VIII RD Olive Tiu, DBM VIII RD Imee Laceras, other fellow workers in government, partners from the private sector and academe, friends from the media, ladies and gentlemen, maupay nga adlaw!
Eastern Visayas started the year 2020 on a higher economic growth trajectory. As you may recall, our Gross Regional Domestic Product (GRDP) expanded for five consecutive years from 2014-2019, partly due to the sustained growth of the Services sector, which is the main driver of the regional economy.
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.
Not surprisingly, our GRDP contracted by 7.6 percent in 2020, a steep drop of 13.2 percentage points from 2019’s 5.6 percent positive growth. It also fell short of the 6.3 percent annual target in the Eastern Visayas Regional Development Plan (RDP) 2017-2022 Midterm Update. Nevertheless, the region had a slower contraction compared to that of the country and nine (9) other regions.
The Services sector was dealt with the largest blow of 9.4 percent from a high 8.9 percent growth a year ago due to the closure of business establishments, suspension of classes, disruption of public transportation, and cancellation of sea and air travel. Consequently, our tourism industry has been greatly affected as regional tourist receipts plummeted by 87.7 percent to only PhP3.1 billion from PhP25 billion in the previous year.
All subsectors under services (such as trade, transportation, accommodation and food services, communication, financial activities, real estate, education, etc.) except Human Health and Social Work Activities, recorded contractions with four (4) sub-sectors having double-digit declines. This may imply that most of the region’s businesses and institutions are without continuity plans and utilized traditional business models, thus were caught unprepared and had their operations badly disrupted.
The Industry sector, on the other hand, is not left unscathed either with its 8.5 percent reduction stemming from double digit declines in the growth of the Construction and Mining and Quarrying sub-sectors at 34.2 percent and 26.8 percent, respectively. Less building permits and mining moratorium of metallic minerals were noted in 2020 relative to 2019. Construction activities were hampered by the imposition of stringent health protocols and limited transport of aggregates due to the pandemic. Last year’s robust 20.8 percent growth in Manufacturing was not, however, able to keep the Industry sector afloat despite being the largest contributor among subsectors at 17.1 percent of the GRDP.
The agriculture, forestry, and fishing (AFF) grew but at a slower pace of 0.9 percent from 2.1 percent a year ago as significant cuts on the production value of commercial fisheries and aquaculture were noted. Weather disturbances, coupled with the intensified law enforcement activities, have led to this downturn. Moreover, the partial and at least two months of almost total closure of operations in the restaurants, hotels, and other food and food-processing establishments removed a key market for farmers and fishers, which dampened agri-fishery production.
On the demand side, private consumption, comprising 86.6 percent of the aggregate demand for goods and services, contracted by 7.9 percent as a result of mobility restrictions and income disruptions. This means that the region’s households were spending PhP32.2 billion less in 2020 from its PhP407.4 billion total private consumption expenditures in 2019.
Also contributing to the lackluster private consumption is the increase in unemployed workers. For 2020, employment plunged to 92 percent, which is 3.6 percentage points lower on a year-on-year basis, resulting in losses to labor income. Looking closely at the quarterly movement of the labor market, unemployment rose to 14.3 percent coinciding with the height of the hard lockdowns in April 2020, before gradually easing as the economy slowly reopened towards the second half of the year.
Meanwhile, government expenditure, which accounts for 24.3 percent of the region’s aggregate demand for goods and services, continued to accelerate by 9.5 percent with the implementation of the Bayanihan I and II, among other important programs to address the pandemic. In contrast, investments in the region, which accounted for 26.7 percent of the economy, shrunk by 40.4 percent as business confidence wanes amid the health crisis.
Likewise, the global trade disruptions resulted in a 12.9 percent contraction to the region’s trade balance compared to the previous year. Nonetheless, the region saw a trade surplus of PhP114.2 billion on goods and services to the rest of the world.
Given these results in the GRDP and GRDE for 2020, NEDA sees the region’s poverty situation, where 402,000 people were lifted out of poverty in 2018, to worsen last year as more businesses, daily wage earners, freelancers, and informal workers lost their income.
Although the recovery path is threatened by the new COVID-19 variants, some challenges in the vaccination drive, and the possible rise in oil prices as the developed countries start to pick up their production, the prospects for 2021 are still encouraging.
The government has initiated and continues to implement measures in combating the pandemic and revive the economy amid the extra-ordinary challenges we are faced with. On 5 March 2021, Eastern Visayas rolled out its COVID-19 vaccination program. 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.
However, appropriate safeguards have to be put in place to further reopen the economy. We have to proactively balance and manage our economic activities while controlling the spread of the virus. Community restrictions and risks aversion do not work alone. For one, we need to strongly advocate for a more intensified implementation of the Prevent, Detect, Isolate, Treat, and Recover (PDITR) strategy as this was effective in bringing the COVID-19 cases down to 2,000 a day between August 2020 to February 2021 nationwide.
Continuous improvement of the regional healthcare system must be made to address the existing gaps and those brought about by the ongoing pandemic.
Programs, projects, and regulations that would hasten the digital transformation of businesses and government towards the new normal are likewise imperative. The pandemic forced the medium-term goal of digitalization and modernization at the forefront. To advance this, the government is pushing for the adoption of digital strategies and the utilization of e-commerce.
The Philippine Identification System (PhilSys), a project led by the PSA, is expected to improve access and delivery of public and private services, as well as enhance the Philippines’ digital economy. To date, a total of 841,087 persons went through step 1 registration involving the collection of demographic data, while 342,464 individuals finished step 2 involving validation of supporting documents and capturing of biometric data in Eastern Visayas.
Still, much needs to be done to improve the unstable internet connectivity in the region, this being the backbone of digital infrastructure. The government also highlighted the need for reskilling and retooling especially on the digital adeptness of the workforce.
Moreover, improved, targeted, and time-bound social amelioration programs, small business wage subsidy programs and other mitigating measures continue to be implemented to support the vulnerable sectors through the Bayanihan I and II.
In closing, the year 2020 has truly been difficult for all of us. 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.
Madamo nga salamat.