National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Regional Office MIMAROPA Director Susan A. Sumbeling delivered a statement about the region’s economic growth in 2020 during the Regional Accounts of the Philippines Press Conference held by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) MIMAROPA on April 29.
Sumbeling affirmed the PSA’s report on how MIMAROPA’s economy experienced dismal economic growth in 2020. According to her, all subsectors suffered a reversal of growth, except for three that managed to increase at a slower pace: information and communication; financial and insurance activities; and public administration and defense and compulsory social activities.
Financial and insurance activities subsector recorded a slowdown, from 8.6 percent growth rate in 2019 to 6.9 percent in 2020. There has been a surge in the use of digital financial platforms during the community quarantine, especially in its early period of implementation. Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Benjamin E. Diokno, during the Sulong Pilipinas 2021 Partners for Progress Forum held on April 26, reported an increase in the use of national retail payment systems such as PESONet and InstaPay.
The opening and use of digital accounts, like e-wallet and bank accounts, recorded a significant increase in the volume and value of payments made in 2020 compared to 2019. This can be attributed to the transition of physical banking transaction to digital banking transaction as a result of limited mobility and social distancing measures for the management of the spread of COVID‐19. Moreover, more individuals opened bank accounts to receive cash assistance from the government.
To ensure stability, resilience, and inclusivity of the banking system amid the current pandemic, Republic Act No. 11469, or the Bayanihan Act I, allowed the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) to impose monetary and regulatory relief measures such as reduction in key policy rates and reserve requirements; relaxation of the know-your-customer requirements for bank transactions; provision of a 30-day grace period or extension for the payment of loans due within the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) without imposing additional interest, penalties, or charges; and availability of digital financial services during the enhanced community quarantine or ECQ period.
Said relief measures generally aimed to extend financial relief to borrowers, both individual clients and the micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), provide incentivized lending, promote continued access to financial services, support continued financial services delivery, and support sufficient level of domestic liquidity and economic activity.
In terms of public administration and defense and compulsory social activities, Sumbeling informed that the subsector registered a decelerated growth, from 6.1 percent in 2019 to 4.3 percent in 2020. This can be attributed to the 30-day grace period for all loans with principal and/or interest due within the ECQ period without incurring interest, fees, and penalties given by various government financial institutions. This also included the Government Service Insurance System, Social Security System, and PAG-IBIG Fund. The deferment of the payment of loans lasted for about three months. The increased budget allocation for defense to support government’s pursuit in attaining inclusive and sustainable peace, order, and security and the implementation of the second tranche of the Salary Standardization Law of 2019, which granted salary increase to government employees in 2020, contributed to the increase in growth but at a slower pace.
Meanwhile, the agriculture, forestry, and fishing sector decelerated to 2.2 percent in 2020, from 4.7 percent in 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the supply chain inefficiency in the region including its distribution systems. The imposition of ECQ restrained the movement of agricultural produce and producers, which resulted in increased food waste due to spoilage, lower farm gate prices of agriculture and fishery products, and higher retail prices of food commodities. During the ECQ, the direct losses from unsold produce in MIMAROPA reached PhP1.52 million. With these, there is a need to study and identify the bottlenecks and gaps in the supply chain system in the region. Typhoons Quinta, Rolly, and Ulysses also resulted in decreases in major agricultural outputs such as palay, banana, calamansi, coconut, garlic, onion, coffee, carabao, chicken, duck and duck eggs, and fisheries. The region’s agricultural damages and losses from these typhoons were at PhP1.67 billion and PhP5.29 billion, respectively.
For the Industry sector, the total estimated foregone revenue due to COVID-19 was recorded at PhP7.07 billion pesos, where 71 percent or PhP4.99 billion pesos came from manufacturing industry. This was followed by mining and quarrying, with 23 percent or PhP1.63 billion and construction with six percent or PhP444.6 million.
Construction contracted the highest in the Industry sector at -1.9 percent, lower from the previous year contraction of -1.2 percent. This performance pulled the whole industry sector to contract at -2.9 percent for 2020. Undoubtedly, quarantine restrictions and the fall in consumption translate to income loss and these contributed highly to the contraction in construction.
For the services sector, the tourism support industries were also expected to affect the gross regional domestic product (GRDP) of the region. As tourism is known as a major economic growth driver of the region, it is also the sector that was hardest hit by the effects of the pandemic. The implementation of the community quarantines in the country restricted the travel of both local and foreign tourists in our prime tourism destinations. This resulted in 91.87 percent decrease in tourist arrivals for 2020. The estimated tourism revenue losses during the implementation of ECQ (from March to April in 2020) were PhP3.17 billion.
Transportation and storage contracted the highest in the services sector with -1.8 percent, which brought the services sector to contract at a staggering -4.3 percent. At the national level, visits to public transport stations are still down by around 50 percent compared to pre-pandemic times.
Foregone revenue for motor vehicles, personal household goods, and wholesale and retail trade was estimated at PhP2.79 billion based on the survey conducted by the NEDA.
On a positive note, MIMAROPA region’s government final consumption expenditure accelerated by 9.6 percent in 2020 compared to 3.4 percent growth in 2019. Other expenditure items contracted in 2020. Per capita household final consumption expenditure decelerated by 9.0 percent in 2020. The per capita household final consumption expenditure (HFCE), at constant 2018 prices, in the region was recorded at PhP95,469 in 2020, 19.6 percent lower than the national level which amounted to PhP118,723.
Quarantine restrictions due to the COVID-19 have tempered the overall growth of the regional economy. There are many programs and projects temporarily suspended because of the pandemic that made the region to be off-track of its targets. The pandemic highlighted the vulnerability of those marginalized and disadvantaged sectors in the society especially in accessing basic social services. To mitigate the adverse impact brought about by COVID-19, the government initiated measures to improve growth and job prospects, as well as protect the highly marginalized and vulnerable segments of society.
In 2020, a total of 188,624 Pantawid Pamilya household beneficiaries were served in the region. Although it was 4.55 percent lower than the 197,623 target household beneficiaries in 2020, it was 8.27 percent higher than the 178,316 served beneficiaries in 2019. The beneficiaries received the maximum cash benefit allotted to cope with the effects of the health crisis.
With the passage of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act and the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, the government launched the Social Amelioration Program–Emergency Subsidy Program or SAP-ESP, which provided an emergency subsidy of PhP3,650 for the Pantawid Pamilya households during the lockdown period of April and May, on top of their regular monthly cash grants of PhP1,350. Meanwhile, the non-Pantawid poor households in MIMAROPA who were also affected by the health crisis received PhP5,000 subsidy per month for two months. Subsidy was intended to meet their basic needs such as food and medicine during the quarantine or lockdown period. The SAP-ESP has served 91.27 percent or 710,274 families out of the 778,253 families total target in MIMAROPA, amounting to PhP3.34 billion.
To manage and combat COVID-19, testing laboratories were established in the region such as the licensed GeneXpert laboratories which include the following: (a) Culion Sanitarium and General Hospital; (b) Occidental Mindoro Provincial Hospital; (c) Oriental Mindoro Provincial Hospital; (d) Ospital ng Palawan; and (e) Puerto Galera Molecular Laboratory.
Despite challenges brought about by COVID-19, regular programs such as routine immunization, micronutrient supplementation, feeding programs, family planning services, oral health care services, improvement in breastfeeding practices, capacity building for health workers, and deworming were also conducted.
Undoubtedly, the COVID-19 pandemic and the onslaught of typhoons Quinta, Rolly, and Ulysses will leave a mark in the region’s history. Assuming that all rehabilitation and recovery proposed programs, projects, and activities will be implemented, MIMAROPA’s economy is expected to bounce back this year.
The government will continue to work hard to roll out the vaccines and ensure the gradual re-opening of the economy. The timely implementation of the vaccination program will help in the fast recovery of the region and of the country. In parallel with the mass vaccination program, the recommended strategies to be pursued to accelerate recovery of the region are to realign expenditure priorities in 2021 and 2022; promote co‐financing between the national government and local governments for development programs; communicate the rehabilitation and recovery plans; provide substantial increase in financial resources available to local government units (LGUs) by 2022 through the Supreme Court ruling on Mandanas-Garcia case; fast-track the implementation of the National ID System; fast-track the implementation of the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag‐asa (BP2) Program; improve resilience to climate and disaster risk by mainstreaming Build-Back-Better principle; re-open the economy to modified general community quarantine (MGCQ) or better at the appropriate time; digitalization of online courses; improve learning outcomes and encourage innovation; timely completion of all priority infrastructure projects; and improve transportation services.
Sumbeling also highlighted the need to become aggressive in the strategies to recover from the impacts of pandemic. There were 225 PAPs amounting to PhP10,123,162,000 proposed for fiscal year (FY) 2021 funding under the MIMAROPA Rehabilitation and Recovery Plan for COVID-19. About 98 PAPs amounting to PhP3,999,865.50 have already secured funding under the General Appropriations Act or GAA. Nevertheless, she underlined the need to capitalize on other sources of financing such as official development assistance, public-private partnership, among others. Other strategies that can be implemented in the region to achieve reversal of economic performance include formulation of Agriculture and Food Supply Resiliency Strategy, modernization of agriculture and promotion of product diversification, promotion of Go Lokal, development of mechanism to increase the resilience and capacity of MSMEs and restoration of the vibrancy of tourism sector.