MANILA -- The Philippine economy expanded 6.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2016 on the back of higher investment and consumption, bringing the full-year growth to 6.8 percent, its strongest in three years.
Last year's gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate makes the Philippines the second fastest growing major Asian emerging economy, with China growing at 6.7 percent.
This is near the high-end of the government's target of 6 to 7 percent growth rate for 2016.
National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Director-General Ernesto Pernia said the October to December quarter growth was lower than the 7 percent in the third quarter, but higher than the 6.3-percent growth recorded during the same period the previous year.
"Let me note that the last quarter growth of an election year is usually slower than the first half due to the transition of government, and as investors adopt a 'wait-and-see' attitude," he said in a press briefing.
Pernia said domestic demand, in terms of investment and consumption, continued to fuel growth for the fourth quarter of 2016.
The government reported that the services sector remained the major driver of economic growth during the period, contributing 4.1 percent; while the industry sector shared 2.6 percent.
Services surged by 7.4 percent and industry by 7.6 percent in the fourth quarter.
Pernia said the agriculture sector, however, was a "letdown" as it returned to negative territory, reeling from the effects of typhoons "Karen" and "Lawin" in October to December.
With the agriculture's slowing growth of -1.1 percent, the NEDA chief stressed that boosting the sector is a priority of the Duterte administration.
"With our thrust to work towards regional development especially Mindanao, I think agriculture in Mindanao will be boosted. The higher value crops as well as agriculture infrastructure will be greatly improved in Mindanao, including the connectivity across different provinces in Mindanao," he said.
Pernia is optimistic of hitting a 6.5 percent to 7.5-percent GDP growth in 2017 despite potential downside risks, including extreme weather disturbances, the possible policy shifts in the United States and greater volatility in capital flows.
For her part, NEDA Deputy Director General Rosemarie Edillon identified tourism, government investment, construction and manufacturing driving this year's growth.
"Our domestic demand is very, very robust actually. In fact, during the period let say 2012 to 2014, the growth in the other countries were lower and yet, we were sporting greater than 6 percent (GDP), we even had 7 percent (growth). It's really because of the very strong, very robust domestic demand," she said in an interview. (PNA)
Source: Philippines News Agency