ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
PHL economy surging despite uncertainties – gov't
The Philippine economy expanded at one of the fastest rates in Asia last year, data showed Thursday, with an acceleration expected despite many uncertainties surrounding President Rodrigo Duterte's leadership.
Billions of dollars in Chinese investments and the dawn of a "golden age" of infrastructure spending will be among the key drivers of the Philippine economy, the government said as it unveiled 6.8 percent growth in 2016.
That compares with 5.9 percent in 2015.
"This is clear proof that no amount of counterproductive political chatter from certain quarters could undermine the upward trajectory of a domestic economy that is in pretty good shape under a Duterte presidency," Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said.
Duterte has become one of the world's more controversial leaders since taking office in the middle of last year, launching a war on drugs that has claimed more than 6,000 lives and repeatedly threatening to impose martial law.
He has also loosened the Philippines' decades-long alliance with the United States –using foul language against former president Barack Obama for criticizing the drug war – while seeking closer ties with China and Russia.
Still, the Philippine economy grew by 6.6 percent year-on-year in the final quarter of 2016, a slight slowdown from the previous three months but still one of the fastest rates in Asia.
This reflected many of the strong fundamentals put in place by Duterte's predecessors, as well as the continued importance of remittances sent home by the roughly 10 million Filipinos working overseas.
"Actually the strategies have been there before. We just now need to accelerate," Socioeconomic Planning Undersecretary Rosemarie Edillon told reporters.
The government said it planned to more than double infrastructure spending – from $17 billion this year to $36.8 billion in 2022 – with the Philippines looking to China and Japan rather than the United States to finance the plans.
"In terms of funding, we are not going to depend much on the US, we are going to get it from the (Asian) neighborhood," Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said.
The Philippines also expects to open up important new export markets in China and Russia, and see a huge influx of tourists from those countries, according to Pernia.
He expressed confidence the economy would grow this year at the upper end of the government's target of 6.5-7.5 percent, then between seven and eight percent for the rest of Duterte's six-year term.
UK-based research firm Capital Economics cited the "uncertain political situation" in the Philippines as a downside risk to its economy, along with a potential loss of trade from the United States due to President Donald Trump's protectionist policies.
But it maintained its forecast that the Philippine economy would grow 6.5 percent this year.
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