The Cordillera economy grew by an impressive 12.1 percent in 2017, the fifth year in a row that the region has posted positive growth since 2013. Estimates show that growth was backed by the recovery of the industry and agriculture sectors and the continuing robust growth of the services sector.
The industry sector grew by an impressive 18.6 percent that was backed by the rebound in construction and the more than expected growth in manufacturing. This is attuned with the government’s increased spending for public infrastructure and social protection programs, along with increased investments in private construction. In 2017, the DPWH received Php14.6 billion for its budget which is higher than the Php13.3 billion it received in 2016. In 2018, the agency expects to receive Php20 billion that will certainly help improve our connectivity within the region and also to neighboring regions as well.
The expansion in industrial output was also due to the strong performance of manufacturing resulting from improved earnings of PEZA exports, validating the continued important role of PEZA locators to the growth of the regional economy. But it is also expected that output from local manufacturing is slowly making an impact on total manufacturing output. The regional economy remains industry-driven and is one among the four other regions that is predominantly industrial aside from Regions 3, NCR and 4A.
Agricultural output has recovered. 2017 was a better year weather-wise for the sector, with fewer strong typhoons even as the region still suffered from the effects of Gorio, Huaning and Odette to name a few, along with the seasonal monsoon rains. This is compared to the drier weather conditions experienced in 2016. With better weather conditions in 2017, there was significant recovery in the crops sector specifically in palay and corn production. There was also an observed increase in the production of major vegetable crops with a negligible drop in the production of the region’s priority vegetable crops.
The services sector remains robust backed by higher output in financial intermediation, trade and public administration. Other services including tourism, education and health and wellness services continues to play an important role, along with business process outsourcing activities. The region remains a major tourist destination area with tourist arrivals still on the rise, a preferred choice for educational services by both local and foreign students, and a preferred area for IT-BPM activities. Earnings of PEZA-registered call centers remained robust tripling in value from a year ago, along with a steady increase in employment and compensation.
The biggest challenge for the region is how to maintain its momentum for growth. But the region remains optimistic that the economy will again post growth in 2018 with the implementation of required programs and projects and reforms of the current administration.
The region is expected to benefit from the administration’s Build, Build, Build program to further increase public construction activities that will attract more investments to the region, improve the delivery of public services and also create more jobs. But investors are also encouraged to help in the region’s effort to disperse economic activities in the identified secondary and tertiary growth centers of the region.
As 2018 is another election year, this is expected to provide a stimulus to the economy. Consumer spending is expected to increase with higher take- home pay resulting from the tax reform and implementation of the third tranche of the Salary Standardization Law, even as government will be on guard against going above its inflation targets.
Still, the region will continue to find ways to diversify its sources of growth. Specifically, micro, small and medium enterprises will be encouraged to be creative and innovative given their role as significant engines of growth and in broadening growth in the manufacturing sector. They will be encouraged to aspire for higher product quality that will truly make the mark for Cordillera products. Local farmers will also be encouraged to aspire for value-adding activities to their agricultural products through innovation and technology.
With the current administration’s commitment towards achieving inclusive growth, the region will sustain if not even try to attain higher growth to enable the country to move closer to the long-term vision for all Filipinos to realize a matatag, maginhawa at panatag na buhay.