The Bicol region’s economy starts to recover from the adverse effect of the pandemic with 4.2 percent growth rate from a contraction of 8.3 percent in 2020 as reported by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) during a simultaneous nationwide press conference on the country’s economic performance on April 28, 2022. “This sounds a lot of hope for Bicolanos that finally our economy is recovering”, NEDA 5 Regional Director Agnes E. Tolentino said.
On her statement on the region’s economic performance, Director Tolentino stated that despite the improvement, the growth is still below the annual target range of 6.7 percent to 7.7 percent growth as set under the Updated Bicol Regional Development Plan (RDP) 2017 to 2022.
The declining growth of the agriculture sector pulled down the region’s economic performance. The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries sector further decelerated due to the effect of the COVID 19-pandemic, African Swine Fever (ASF), typhoons Jolina and Odette, fall armyworm infestation, and global hike prices of inputs. Director Tolentino emphasized the importance of gross value adding in the development of the agriculture sector. “The government could not be solely focusing on producing agricultural products without value adding. That is why it is important to encourage farmers to become entrepreneurs. In addition, the region is still agri-based, and it is imperative to support the agricultural sector to maximize the production of agri-based products and services”, she said.
Despite the setbacks, most of the industries grew significantly amidst the damages and service hiatus caused by the pandemic. The gradual reopening of the business, transport and tourism operation, and the continuous roll-out of vaccination program not only for health workers but covering other eligible individuals are crucial in attaining economic recovery.
In the succeeding years, the region’s priorities will be towards full economic recovery. Government efforts will continue to complement the recovery program and help the Bicol region bounce back from the crisis. The region will pursue a more proactive planning and implementation to accelerate the transformation of the AFF sector through the OneDA Reform Agenda. The implementation and completion of big-ticket infrastructure projects in the region that will promote job generation and intermodal connectivity within and outside the region will be facilitated. The inclusion of additional flights and opening of new air and sea routes are expected to generate an influx of visitors to destinations in the region.
Director Tolentino shared during the open forum the importance to ramp up the vaccination program, to enhance infrastructure that supports digital economy, and to encourage more private investments in digital service. In her closing remarks, she expressed her optimism in saying that without the calamities and with the government programs in place “the Bicol Region will recover to pre-pandemic level by 2022 and attain the goal of the Philippine Plan and Bicol RDP 2017 to 2022 of having a healthy and resilient Philippines”.
Christina Louise A. Belleza/NEDA5