By FRED M. LOBO
The government said the Philippine economy likely grew slightly above 6.0 percent in the first three-months of the year.
Within target, according to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).
Inflation averaged 3.8 percent at the end of the first quarter, according to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).
Lower than the previous quarter’s 5.9 percent rate and may further drop to 2.7 percent—3.5 percent range, the BSP department of economic research added.
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia pointed out that the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) may have grown by above 6.0 percent in the first quarter.
Within President Duterte’s downward adjusted target of 6.0 percent to 7.0 percent for this year, he said.
Pernia explained that although within target, economic growth in the first three months of the year was “more on the lower end” since the government was prevented from further accelerating public spending during the quarter due to Congress’ failure to pass the 2019 General Appropriations Act (GAA) before the end of last year.
“Because of the reenacted budget (which lasted for) four months, or one third of the year,” the NEDA chief said.
But Pernia cited some positive factors that somehow compensated for the delayed passage of the national budget.
“Lower inflation motivated more spending of people, households, and election related spending,” he said.
He recalled that Duterte’s economic team lowered to between 6.0 and 7.0 percent, the GDP goal this yearfrom the original 7.0 percent to 8.0 percent, owing to the budget delay.
National government’s spending dropped by at least P1 billion a day in the first three-months of the year, the team noted.
Finance Sec. Carlos Dominguez III, along with Pernia and former Budget Secretary now Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Benjamin E. Diokno, had also earlier warned against the delayed passage of the 2019 budget.
A drag on growth, they said.
President Duterte, who received a copy of the 2019 budget bill only on March 26 this year, signed the P3.7-trillion national budget last month and vetoed P95.3 billion worth of appropriations, after a thorough review.
Rush public works and other priorities, on with national development, he ordered.
President Duterte witnessed and welcomed the signing of 19 business agreements forged between Filipino and Chinese companies at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Beijing last week.
We’ll ensure friendly business climate for the investors in the Philippines without corruption, he said in a short speech.
“We are pleased to announce that President Rodrigo RoaDuterte’s latest official visit to China resulted in 19 business agreements with an estimated investment value of US$12.165 billion,” presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said.
“More than 21,000 of our fellow Filipinos are expected to be employed as a result thereof,”headded.
Panelo noted the new business agreements covered energy to the construction of an economic zone, the design of a Green Textile Industry Park to airport expansion, the construction of tourism-related facilities to infrastructure for nationwide Wi-Fi connectivity, the introduction of Filipino domestic helpers in China and supply of agricultural products, such as fresh pineapples and young coconuts.
“The President’s 4th visit to our giant neighbor in the north yielded positive results that will impact on the lives of many of our people leading to his goal of delivering a comfortable, secure, and prosperous life for all Filipinos,” he said.
Panelo said Duterte also pushed for the exchange of skills, ideas, and experiences of people, as well as protection of migrant workers as part of a Master Plan for ASEAN Connectivity at the China Belt and Road Forum where Chinese President Xi Jinping called for greater international cooperation.
Common prosperity through cooperation on the basis of mutual respect and as equal sovereign states, Duterte stressed.
“He articulated development assistance as a genuine tool to bring about positive change in the lives of our peoples. He also emphasized that development assistance should not foster dependence. Rather it should be based on reciprocal benefits. This should be the new normal, stressed the President,” Panelo said.
Yes to mutual respect, cooperation with reciprocal benefits, and a new norm in international relations.