Region 12’s economic growth down in 2009

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/07 August) – Region 12 or Southwestern Mindanao’s economic performance slowed down in 2009 as the region’s agriculture, fisheries and forestry (AFF) production posted their biggest slump in three years.

Herlita Caraan, National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB)-Region 12 director, said the region’s declining agricultural productivity and limited fisheries output last year pulled down its economic growth or Gross Regional Domestic Product (GRDP) to 1.3 percent, a significant
drop from the 4.5 percent it posted in 2008.

She said the huge drop pushed the Region 12 to the 11th spot last year in terms of economic growth. In 2008, the region was the country’s third fastest growing region in 2008.

“Our major agricultural crops such as palay, pineapple, sugarcane and rubber posted significantly lower growths in 2009 and the situation was compounded by the huge drop in our fishery production, especially of tuna,” Caraan said in a press conference in Koronadal City Thursday.

Region 12 covers the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, North Cotabato and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong, Kidapawan and Cotabato.

Caraan said AFF, which accounts for the biggest share of the region’s economy at 41.5 percent, fell to negative 2 percent in 2009 after posting robust growth rates of 6.6 percent in 2008 and 7.9 percent in 2007.

Citing a report from the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Agricultural Statistics, she said the region’s palay production was adversely affected by the flashfloods and pest infestations that hit major farming areas last year while sugarcane output was affected by severe water lag brought about by the flashfloods.

Pineapple production’s sluggish growth was traced to poor crop maintenance and the conversion of some plantation areas to banana and corn farming, she said.

She said fishery production, which comprises around 80 percent of the total AFF yield, drastically slowed down last year due to the “observed scarcity of tuna species within the country’s exclusive economic zone.”

Caraan said adding to the problem was the three-month ban on tuna fishing in 2009 to accelerate tuna restocking in compliance with the agreements forged by the national government as part of its membership to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission.

Over all, however, Caraaan said the region managed to avoid plunging to a negative growth rate due to the improved performance of the industry and services sectors.

The industry sector, which accounts for 31.8 percent of the region’s total economic output, slightly grew to 3.8 percent last year from the 3.5 percent it posted in 2008, she noted.

Caraan said the construction subsector jumped to a double digit growth of 19.1 percent in 2008 from 5.6 percent in 2008 mainly due to the increase in public and private construction ventures in the region last year.

She said electricity and water rebounded to a 3.1 percent growth in 2009 from the negative 1.5 percent in 2008 due to the increase in generation outputs posted by the geothermal plants in North Cotabato.

“The improved performances of these subsectors slightly cushioned the impact of the weaker performance in the manufacturing side, which slid to 1.2 percent last year from the 3.4 percent in 2008,” she said.

Caraan said the slump in the manufacturing subsector was mainly caused by the impact of the global financial crisis.

“The demand for tuna and other export winners from the region decreased as offshore demand dropped because of the crisis,” she explained.

Meantime, Caraan said the region’s services sector continued to post a steady growth, reaching 3.8 percent in 2009 after growing by 2.4 percent in 2008.

Except for the ownership of dwellings and real estate or ODRE subsector, she said all services areas improved significantly last year as buoyed by government services that almost doubled during the period.

She said private services grew from 4.1 percent in 2008 to 5.6 percent in 2009 due to the booming hotel and restaurant ventures in the region.

Finance grew from 3.5 percent to 5 percent which transportation and communication climbed to 4.1 percent from the previous 0.6 percent due to the strong performances of the land and air transportation services, Caraan said.

She added the area’s trading subsector accelerated to 2.5 percent last year due to the improved performance of retail trading. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)