By Argyll Geducos
Malacañang remained optimistic that the country will hit its economic targets this year despite a growth slowdown recorded in the second quarter.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo made the statement after Philippine economic expansion slowed for the second straight quarter in April to June this year.
The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported that the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) increased by 5.5 percent in the second quarter, slightly slower than 5.6 percent in the first three months of the year.
In a statement, Panelo said that the slowdown was just a tiny bump on the road, and that the government was still optimistic in hitting its targets.
“While growth has slowed down in the second quarter of this year, the Office of the President has been assured by our economic managers that this is simply a temporary setback,” he said.
“The Palace remains optimistic in pursuing our macroeconomic targets despite the challenges we face as a nation,” he added.
Panelo also said that the government will continue to address all economic challenges that may confront the country.
“The President and this Administration are facing these challenging times head on, confident that our country will go back on track in keeping the growth momentum in the right trajectory,” he said.
“The President remains committed in making the lives of all Filipinos secure and comfortable,” he added.
In his statement, Panelo, citing Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia, noted the challenges that the country faced in the second quarter of the year, including the El Niño phenomenon, election ban, and other external factors.
“Elaborating, Secretary Pernia said, first, there was the El Niño phenomenon, which saw palay contracting by 5.5 percent and corn by 8.4 percent and slowing household consumption from 6.2 percent to 5.6 percent,” he said.
“The election ban in May on public works, infrastructure and related spending which dropped by 27.2 percent aggravated by the budget impasse affected our progress in the second quarter,” he added.
“Finally, there were external factors, primarily the growing protectionist approach of advanced economies, which impacted our information technology-business process management (IT-BMP) and export sectors. We fully agree with these observations,” he continued.
Panelo listed down the measures the government has undertaken to ensure that the domestic growth remains sustainable.
“The Rice Tariffication Law is being implemented to protect our farmers from various risks in the market, such as the effects of El Niño, and make their sector more profitable,” he said.
“To make growth sustainable and lasting, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), through Secretary Pernia, suggested the creation of an apex water body to address the water crisis brought by the El Niño and mechanisms for resiliency in the agriculture sector, either through technology or insurance program, in the wake of weather disturbances brought by climate change,” he added.
Panelo said President Duterte also directed concerned government agencies to undertake pre-procurement processes to attain target disbursements in addressing the economic impact of the previous ban on public construction activities and have now instructed them to expedite the approval of permits and requirements for public construction projects.
Duterte also instructed the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), together with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), to aim for higher value-added business processes, and enhance the IT-BMP sector with the hope that those in the said industry would undergo retooling to further improve their skills.
Panelo also said that tourism is made a priority early on, and fortunately, international travel has not been affected by the ongoing trade wars.
Calls to Congress
Meanwhile, Panelo said The Office of the President in calling on Congress for the timely passage of the 2020 National Budget for the continuing implementation of the Build, Build, Build Program.
They also appealed to lawmakers to prioritize the Duterte’s legislative agenda which include the TRABAHO bill or the second tranche of the President’s tax reform program, the Foreign Investment Act, the Public Service Act, the Retail Trade Liberalization Act, and a revised Security of Tenure Bill, to address investment uncertainties caused by external factors.