The National Capital Region (NCR), which includes Metro Manila, retained the largest share of the Philippine economy but was surpassed by Eastern Visayas in terms of the pace of growth, the latest government data showed on Thursday.
Analysts see an indication of continued regional imbalance in the country, which warrants expansive economic development outside the capital.
Data released by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that the NCR continued to have the largest share of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) at 36.6 percent.
Calabarzon followed with a 16.8 percent share and Central Luzon with 9.5 percent.
In terms of year-on-year growth, however, Eastern Visayas expanded 12.4 percent last year, outpacing the NCR, which grew 7.5 percent.
The PSA said all other regions posted positive economic growth from 2015 to 2016, with Central Luzon posting 9.5 percent; Central Visayas 8.8 percent; Ilocos Region 8.4 percent; Northern Mindanao 7.6 percent; Soccsksargen 5.0 percent; Davao Region 9.4 percent; Mimaropa 2.7 percent; and Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao 0.3 percent.
The economies of the following regions also expanded, but at a slower pace from a year earlier: Bicol Region (5.7 percent); Zamboanga Peninsula (4.7 percent); Western Visayas (6.1 percent); Caraga (2.5 percent); Cordillera Administrative Region (2.1 percent); Calabarzon (4.8 percent); and Cagayan Valley (3.3 percent), it said.
Overall, the Philippine economy grew 6.9 percent in 2016, faster than the 5.9 percent rate registered in 2015.
IHS Markit senior economist Rajiv Biswas said the new regional economic data for 2016 continued to show the NCR dominating the Philippine economy, but highlighted the uneven pace of economic development across the country.
Biswas noted that per capita GDP in the NCR region reached P431,783 in 2016, compared with the national average of P140,259, when measured at current prices.
“The significant regional imbalances in per capita GDP, as well as in total regional domestic product, have important economic policy implications, showing that the government must give high priority to regional economic development outside of the NCR region,” he suggested.
The IHS economist said regional economic development outside of the NCR should be pursued through major initiatives to create new transport infrastructure and logistics hubs that will attract foreign direct investment into manufacturing and services.
“Further significant industrial development programs are needed over the medium term, particularly focusing on creating modern infrastructure such as airports, roads, ports linked to industrial parks to encourage industrial development,” he said.
Bank of the Philippine Islands Vice President and lead economist Emilio Neri Jr. said there are no surprises in the fact the NCR and Calabarzon continue to have a lion’s share of overall output, but it is encouraging to note that some of the lower income regions are able to outpace the national norm.
“This is a sign that they are catching up with the bigger regions. We are also glad to see that Eastern Visayas continues to recover after the deep underperformance caused by SuperTyphoon Yolanda in recent years,” he