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Economy grows, but many don’t feel gains

Sustained strong domestic demand coupled with robust election-related spending boosted economic growth in the second quarter to its fastest in over two years, but many Filipinos said they did not feel the benefits of the expansion.

The Philippine economy as measured by the gross domestic product (GDP)―the total value of goods produced and services rendered in a given period―grew 7 percent in the last three months of the Aquino administration, said national statistician Lisa Grace S. Bersales.

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“Among the major Asian emerging economies, the Philippines likely remains the fastest, or second-fastest-growing, economy in the second quarter of 2016, followed by China, which grew by 6.7 percent, Vietnam by 5.6 percent, Indonesia by 5.2 percent, Malaysia by 4.0 percent and Thailand by 3.5 percent,” Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia said at a press conference.

Economists cheered the country’s better-than-expected second quarter GDP growth rate of 7 percent but braced for slower growth for the remainder of the year without the extraordinary boost from election spending.

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Lucy Nicdao, a suman (rice cake) vendor, of Guagua town in Pampanga, reacted with disbelief when told that government recorded a 7-percent economic growth.

The 43-year-old mother of two said the P300 daily earning she and her husband was making had not increased in the last three years and was just enough to get them by.

“I don’t feel that the economy has improved. Perhaps that’s because disasters like floods often hit us,” said Nicdao, who on Thursday lined up for food packs from the provincial government.

Ronnie Fernandez, 41, an ambulant vendor in Lucena City, said that for someone who is in the streets every day to find a way to provide for his family, “news that the country’s economy has improved is a lie.”

“I do not know about GDP growth rate, but ask me how much the price of rice, of dried fish has increased. That’s what I know because I need to struggle hard for my family every day,” he said.

Bersales said government and household expenditures related to the national elections in May boosted the industry and services sectors, specifically printing and publishing, land, motor and air transport, communications, wholesale and retail trade, as well as hotels and restaurants.

ING economist Joey Cuyegkeng said the government and the private sectors were likely to continue to expand the absorptive capacity of the economy.

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“The forthcoming tax reform package hopefully contributes to a net increase in disposable income which would be quite positive for the economy,” he said.

Pernia said the government was on track to attain the 6- to 7-percent growth target of the administration for 2016, as the first semester average stood at 6.9 percent.

“The previous administration gave us a strong and stable economy that we can build on further by maintaining the sound macroeconomic, fiscal, and monetary policies already in place. It is also encouraging to note that the growth has been investment-driven,” he said.

Still, “the challenge is to make this growth inclusive so that more people contribute to, and benefit from it,” he said.

Pernia said the Duterte administration was particularly concerned about the farming and fisheries sector, which accounted for about 10 million workers and their families.

“Knowing that the majority of poor Filipinos rely on this sector for their livelihood, this administration will prioritize agricultural development,” he said.

The sector declined 2.1 percent from April to June, the fifth consecutive quarter of declines.

Anong Manalo, 65, of Dagupan City, said farmers like him did not feel the economic growth. “We are at the very bottom [of society]. Government does not give us any importance,” he said.

In Baguio City, an events organizer said his business had not benefited from the announced economic growth. Gregory Rugay, who is in his 50s, said he did not see his profits rise.

“Prices of basic goods and services and electricity have not gone down. I could not even visit my family in Mindanao because it is very expensive to travel now compared to the past years,” Rugay said.

Leslie Ann Alvarez, 18, a former factory worker from Los Baños town in Laguna province, said she did not feel any impact of the growing economy although she was hoping Mr. Duterte could do something about poverty.

“Life is becoming more difficult instead,” for Armando Dayrit, director of Mangyan Kalakbay Mission in Baco town, Oriental Mindoro province.

For 40-year-old job recruiter Rolly dela Peña of Koronadal City, life has not improved because the cost of living remains high.

“The series of oil price rollback has no impact on the prices of food products. We are yet to recover from the impact of the dry spell, we are yet to recover from rice farming failures in previous cropping,” he said.

A few attested to seeing their incomes grow because of the economic expansion.

Gabriel Colacion, 38, a taxi driver in Iloilo City, said his income improved because there were more passengers. “More businessmen are coming here and new subdivisions have opened.”

Life is better these days for Hazel Panlita, 35, a broker in Tagbilaran City. “For the economy, yes, more investors are coming in.”

Miraflor Lawangon, 41, operator of Wow Bohol Travel and Tours, Tagbilaran City, said her income from tourism had increased as a result of the increase in the number of tour bookings. With reports from Doris Dumlao-Abadilla in Manila; Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon, and Gabriel Cardinoza and Kimberlie Quitasol, Inquirer Northern Luzon; Maricar Cinco, Fernan Gianan, Michael Jaucian, Delfin T. Mallari Jr., Madonna T. Virola, Mayda Lagran, Inquirer Southern Luzon; Nestor P. Burgos Jr., Carmel Loise Matus and Leo Udtohan, Inquirer Visayas; Jigger Jerusalem, Orlando Dinoy and Edwin Fernandez, Inquirer Mindanao; Ana Roa, Inquirer Research; and AFP

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