Bicol fastest-growing, but NCR still GDP anchor

BICOL registered the fastest growth among the Philippines' 17 regions in 2015 even as the National Capital Region (NCR) contributed the most to the country's production of goods and services that year.

Preliminary data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) show that the gross regional domestic product (GRDP) of Region V soared by 8.4% last year -- the fastest among the country's 17 regions. Region V, also called the Bicol Region, saw its GRDP accelerate from the revised 4.3% posted in 2014. Bicol's economic growth was faster than the national average of 5.9%. Fuelling Region V's growth was the 23.7% expansion of industry, which comprised 22.5% of the region's economy. Among sub-sectors, construction grew the fastest at 39.7%.

Apart from Bicol, five other regions saw an acceleration in their growth last year. These were Western Visayas, which grew by 8.3% from the previous year's 5.2%; CALABARZON (5.9% from 5.1%); NCR (6.6% from 5.9%); Zamboanga Peninsula (7.2% from 6.6%); and the Cordillera Administrative Region (3.7% from 3.3%).

NCR still was the largest contributor to the country's gross domestic product (GDP) at 36.5%. Metro Manila's growth was fueled by expansion of services and industry. The most dramatic expansion happened in construction and manufacturing.

Construction in NCR rebounded, registering a growth of 5.1% from the previous year's contraction of 4.3%. Growth in manufacturing accelerated to 7% from 5.2% previously.

MANUFACTURING SPURT

"The spurt in manufacturing activity may indicate that businesses were generally confident about the economy's underlying strength despite weakness in the international market. Strong domestic demand offset the impact of the country's declining exports," said Guian Angelo S. Dumalagan, market economist at Land Bank of the Philippines.

"It implies that businesses in the nation's capital are still ramping up production despite weakness in the external environment. That's because of the country's strong domestic demand and favorable interest rate environment. The rise in construction might also reflect strong investment spending in NCR," added Mr. Dumalagan.

Nicholas Antonio T. Mapa, research officer at Bank of the Philippine Islands, said NCR benefited from having both industry and services concentrated in the area.

In Metro Manila, Mr. Mapa noted that "the industrial sector gained by 6.5%."

"This helped complement the steady pace of growth of the services sector, which is highly concentrated in the metropolis," Mr. Mapa said.

"Manufacturing kicked in as we were able to find buyers for our export products while the other sectors saw steady growth," he explained.

Mr. Mapa said construction enjoyed a boom last year, as this was a heyday for the real estate sector on the back of low interest rates and higher incomes.

He said NCR will continue to drive the growth of the economy, with the services sector seen to provide a key pillar. The services sector accounted for the biggest share of NCR's economy at 81.1%, followed by industry at 18.7%.

But the acceleration of NCR's growth relative to the country's overall expansion suggests that development was not that inclusive given that it was more concentrated in the nation's business center, according to Landbank's Mr. Dumalagan.

NCR's average output per Filipino was the highest among the 17 regions last year at P219,114, nearly three times the nation's average of P74,770 and up 7.8% from 2014. Besides NCR, two other region -- CALABARZON and Cordillera Administrative Region -- saw per capita GRDP topping the national average at P92,285 and P74,845, respectively. The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao had the lowest per capita GRDP of P13,695.c

Source: Business World Online