The unexpected 6.4 percent increase in the Philippines’ Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the first quarter of the year was the highest growth rate in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), according to President Benigno Aquino III.
Aquino’s announcement was substantiated by the reports from National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) which showed that the country’s first quarter GDP growth rate was higher than Indonesia’s 6.3 percent; Vietnam’s 4 percent; Singapore’s 1.6 percent; and Thailand’s 0.3 percent.
It was also higher than those of non-ASEAN countries such as Hong Kong (0.4 percent), South Korea (2.8 percent) and Japan (2.8 percent).
During his recent visit here, Aquino also happily informed the Ilonggos that the increase was the second highest growth rate in all of Asia and the highest in a non-election year since 2006.
“As you know, inclusive economic growth is one of the foremost priorities of our administration — this means that no one and no sector is left behind,” assured Aquino.
According to Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. of the Presidential Communications Operations Office, the growth was attributed to the government’s strong infrastructure spending and its conditional cash transfer (CCT) program.
Coloma said Malacañang remained optimistic that it could sustain the growth or even supersede the target in the following quarters.
The country’s development plan aims to sustain a GDP growth of 7-8 percent every year until 2016 when Aquino’s six-year term ends.
“Sana ma-maintain natin at kung maaari pa sana mas mataas pa,” Coloma said in an interview over the weekend.
Coloma said the country’s growing economy will enormously benefit all sectors in the society including the poorest of the poor.
“With the growing economy, we can create more jobs -– the number is the economic priority of our government. If we can create more jobs, we create opportunities…we reduce poverty…and [consequently] give our people better quality of life,” Coloma said.
In significantly reducing the poverty incidence nationwide, Coloma cited the importance of Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino (4Ps), a conditional cash transfer program.
“We are purposive about this because we have a National Household Targeting System to make sure that we are able to reach the poorest of the poor,” he said.
So far, Coloma said Department of Social Welfare and Development, the agency that is in the forefront of the campaign, already covered 3 million out of 4.6 million extremely poor households.
4Ps grants P6,000 yearly cash to the poor provided they comply with the conditions set by the program.
These conditions include mandatory participation in family development sessions, pre-natal care for pregnant women, de-worming and enrollment of children in public schools, among others.