Development Outlook

The country’s top economic managers are set to review the country’s growth targets for this year and 2012, given concerns of renewed uncertainties over global economic recovery. This is especially so given the slow pick-up in consumer demand for the country’s exports in the economies of its major trading partners specifically Japan and the United States.

The national government plans to accelerate its spending in the second half of the year especially for infrastructure projects to help pump-prime the economy to ward off the ill effects of continuing uncertainties in the global economy and help the country achieve its growth target for the year. Specifically, government is undertaking a “systematic review” of the country’s transportation and communication systems to help the government focus on the infrastructure support to entice investors that will help bring down the cost of doing business in the country. The government has recently announced a Php72 billion stimulus package in hopes of increasing economic activities in the second half of the year.

Prospects for the region’s high-value crop sector is getting a boost with better prospects for market expansion of the region’s agricultural produce. In further developing and promoting the competitiveness of the region’s high-value vegetable crops, local farmers in Benguet and other farmer associations along the Halsema Highway are getting ready to expand their export opportunities. Already, organic broccoli is reportedly now being exported to Japan since last year with South Korea targetted to follow as the next market. Also, the on-going expansion of the vegetable trading post which was started last year will also be a big help to the domestic expansion goals of local farmers.

In line with the “Pilipinas, Gising at Magkape! Program” (PGAM) of the Philippine Coffee Board, Inc. (PCBI), the region is getting its share of needed attention and supoorrt to boost the local coffee industry. One focus of the PCBI is for increased production of the popular Typica Arabica variety grown in CAR with production falling from 1,000 tons in past decades to currently just some 200 tons. The PCBI and the Department of Agriculture (DA) have forged a partnership, now known as the PGAM, to develop and improve coffee plantations in several regions of the Philippines involving partnership activities pertaining to coffee planting and rehabilitation of existing coffee farms with funds from the High Value Commercial Development Program of the DA. PCBI’s activities are also in partnership with the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Even as the the March Japan triple disaster is expected to have a severe impact on the national economy in the short-term, it is also expected to produce an increase in orders for the necessary massive reconstruction work ahead. This is even as export of the country’s electronics products, a big proportion of which CAR produces, remains sluggish due to low demand and slow recovery in the supply chain affected by the triple disaster. However, export of the region’s leading minerals is expected to make up for the slack in electronics exports.

While the region continues to develop new sites to increase tourist arrivals, efforts to preserve existing tourist assets also continue. As earlier mentioned, calls to preserve the Banaue Rice Terraces are being sought by the local government of Banaue from the national government and the international community to help preserve the famed but endangered rice terraces, a major regional tourist attraction. The immediate need is for the formulation of a preservation plan that will help save this very important tourist asset not only of the region but of the country.

Implementation by the Department of Trade and Industry-CAR (DTI-CAR) of its Local and Regional Economic Development (LRED) in Bontoc, Lamut and Bangued is expected to further increase investments to the region resulting from streamlined business permits and licensing systems in local government units, capacity development of rural banks for access to finance by small and medium enterrpises (SMEs), investment and tourism plan formulation and harmonization of SMED (Small and Medium Enterprises Development) Plans.

The DTI-CAR is also set to continue implementing OTOP (One Town, One Product) Flagship Projects, the RuMEPP (Rural Micro Enterprise Promotions Program) in Abra, Ifugao and Kalinga, and the provision of assistance to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) through the Export Pathways Program to further boost the region’s non-PEZA exports.

The region will need to take advantage of prospects in selected priority industries identified by the Board of Investments (BoI) bannered under the 2011 Philippine Investment Promotion Plan (IPP) to stimulate economic activities. The BoI identified in May 10 priority sectors that aims to double by 2014 the amount of foreign investments in the following industries: agro-industry, food processing, electronics and chip manufacturing, business process outsourcing and information technology, energy, mining, logistics, aviation, shipbuidling and tourism.

The IPP includes 11 preferred activities namely: agriculture/agribusiness and fishery, autonomotive manufacturing, energy, green projects, infrastructure, mass housing, PPP projects, research and development, shipbuilding, strategic projects, and tourism. The mandatory list still includes mining but BPOs and creative industries are no longer tagged under export activities.