December 8, 2022

From 2017 to 2019, the economy of the Cordillera has steadily increased but the pandemic in 2020 has stalled the region’s momentum resulting in the region stepping four years back in terms of gross domestic production.

The Cordillera is fourth among 17 regions in the Philippines that registered the fastest decline in its GRDP, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.

The PSA said data for the Cordillera showed the 2020 GRDP was the same as in 2016.

National Economic and Development Authority OIC Regional Director Stephanie Christiansen said like the national economy that contracted by negative 9.6 percent, the regional economy suffered a heavier blow and registered a negative 9.9 percent decline in regional gross output.

In 2018, the Cordillera GRDP was at P308,267,122 and further rose to P322,106,088 in 2019. But the pandemic in 2020 resulted in the GRDP plunging to P296,523,327.

Two of the region’s biggest growth drivers – accommodation and food services and manufacturing suffered the most significant negative growth in gross output.

Christiansen said the accommodation and food services and manufacturing sectors contribution to the total GRDP dropped to 3.4 percent from 6.4 percent in 2019.

Christiansen added the weak global demand for exports from the Baguio City Economic Zone, along with disruptions in the global supply chain, resulted in a negative 16.3 percent contraction in gross output for manufacturing. Its share in the GRDP also dropped to 12.3 percent from 13.2 percent in 2019.

Agriculture and fisheries was also affected in terms of losses of income among farmers, erratic or fluctuations in prices of agricultural commodities, wastages from undelivered agricultural commodities, shortages of labor, and the African swine fever outbreak.

To at least match the 2019 growth levels, PSA-Cordillelra Director Villafe Alibuyog said in a press conference on the state of the regional economy on April 29 that the region should gain 11 percent GRDP for 2021 – a feat that many in the affected sectors say is difficult to achieve given the fact that many businesses remain closed or are operating on a limited scale.

Tourism, the leading economic driver in the region, is still restricted and manufacturing is also limited because of limited demand of products produced in special economic zones.

To improve the GRDP, Christiansen said the sectors that remained resilient during the pandemic and emerging industries can be tapped as the region transitions into the new normal.

This includes information and communication and financial and insurance activities which grew by 4.1 percent although slightly lower than the 4.9 percent growth in 2019.

Financial and insurance activities grew by 8.2 percent from 9.8 percent in 2019.

Wholesale and retail trade also increased its contribution to the total GRDP to 11.8 percent from 9.8 percent in 2019.

Christiansen added what needs to be done is refocus on what sectors or industries to support in order to recover. “We have to be strategic in our recovery effort in 2021 and beyond.”

She also hopes the recommendations for major programs and projects for recovery will be translated not only in the 2021 budget but also forthcoming years including the resumption of the Build, Build, Build program and financial and technical support for micro, small and medium enterprises.

At the regional level, the NEDA-Cordillera is helping contribute in the national recovery program by activating five task groups – economic recovery, social recovery, transport support and local travel and food resiliency of the Regional Recovery Cluster in partnership with the Office of Civil Defense to map out strategic actions that will respond to their areas of concern.

Christiansen also emphasized on the cooperation and involvement of the public, the business sector, the private sector, and civil society in restarting socioeconomic activities. – Rimaliza A. Opiña