Forty years ago, the Philippines was the envy of other Asian countries not only in terms of economic development
but also in governance. However, by the 1980s, the country was overtaken by its neighbors particularly South Korea, Taiwan,
Singapore, Thailand, and Malaysia. Until now, the country is at the tailend of every conceivable measure. Not a few are claiming
the Philippines as the biggest economic disappointment in Southeast Asia.
Yet not everything is lost in the Philippines. BizNews Asia magazine even heralded the coming of the country as the next economic
power! It claimed that the Philipines is world's number 23 in gross domestic product (GDP) as measured in purchasing power parity (PPP)
and number 42 in nominal GDP.
Makati high rise buildings
Still the Philippines is considered a developing economy or at best an emerging market. While it is true that the Philippine
economy today is fundamentally sound compared to those countries which are currently in recession, the fact remains that
more than 30% of the population are mired in poverty and good paying job in the country is scarce. The same BizNews Asia magazine reveal that of all the countries in the world, the Philippines remains a laggard
in terms of competitiveness, number 71 in the 2007-2008 Global Competitiveness Index as compared to Vietnam (number 70), Thailand (34),
Malaysia (21), Indonesia (55), and Singapore (5).
Economic factsheet of the Philippines, 2007
|Gross Regional Domestic Product (in billion pesos at current prices)|
| Total ||6,648.2||100%|
|Electricity, Gas, and Water||230.7||3.47%|
|Employment Data (figure in thousands)|
|Total Employed ||33,674|
|Unemployment Rate ||6.3%|
|Underemployment Rate ||18.1%|
The Philippine economy is largely agriculture-based. Although the contribution of agriculture to the national output
has declined to less than 15% in 2007, more than a third of the work force is engaged in either farming and fishing.
Outside Metro Manila, the figure rises to a little less than one-half at 46% in 2007. Major crops are rice, corn, and sugar.
The country however is a major importer of rice. Primary fruits produce in the country are coconut, banana, pineapple, and mango. Vegetable,
poultry and livestock production are mostly for local consumption. Major seafoods produced are sardines, mackerel, and tuna
of which a sizable percentage are exported.
Manufacturing in the Philippines consists mostly of small and medium enterprises. Electronics, chemicals,
food and beverages account for more than half the value of all manufactured goods in 2007. Cement, metal products, and car assembly
are minor industries. Industrial plants are concentrated in Metro Manila and environs from Tarlac City in the north to
Batangas City in the south. Other minor industrial centers are found in Cebu
area and in the North Mindanao corridor.
The Philippines is one of the most mineralized countries in the world. In fact, former House Speaker Jose
De Venecia, who is from the province of Pangasinan, estimated that reserves of minerals under Philippine soil is one trillion dollars, more than enough to
pay all the country's public debt. With the passage of the 1995 Mining Act, investment in large-scale mining ventures has
been steadily growing up. In 2007, some US$605 million were invested in mining from only $139 miilion in 2004. It is predicted
that in 2010, around US$4 billion would be poured into mining activities.
With all its promise of economic benefits, the contribution of mining to the national economy is a miniscule 1.63%
in 2007 and mining job's proportion to total employment is a negligible 0.4%. No other area of the national economy has
generated much controversy than mining. And this is not without basis. After the 1996 Marcopper disastrous incident in Marinduque
Province where tons and tons of mine waste spilled into the Boac River practically killing it and destroying farmlands, opposition
to mining reached a higher level. Church and civic leaders join the indigenous peoples and environmentalists in vehemently
and at times violently resisting mining activities. Not only that, even the mining companies are reportedly using
violence among themselves and involving retired military personnel in their bid to protect their mining claims.
In the energy sector, the discovery and exploration of commercial oil in the Palawan waters is a great
development in the country's quest for energy self-sufficiency. As of 2007, the country's total installed capacity stood at 15.8
thousand megawatts of which more than 12 thousand MW are in Luzon while the rest are in the Visayas and Mindanao. 26% of this
capacity is contributed by coal-based plants, 21% by hydro, 17% by natural gas, another 17% by oil, 13% by geothermal,
and 6% by gas turbine. Contribution from renewables such as solar and wind is negligible. The passage of the Biofuels Act
of 2006 hopes to ensure the sustained development of biodiesel and bioethanol as alternative fuels for the transport sector.
Business process outsourcing (BPO) particularly call centers and software development is one industry where the country
has a distinct advantage with its large pool of English-speaking labor force. It is now a major contributor to the foreign exchange
reserve of the country. Tourism is another bright area of the economy that is performing well. 2007 was a banner year
with unprecedented growth in visitor traffic and tourist spending. More than 3 million foreign tourists arrived in 2007
spending more than four billion US dollars. With BPO and tourism on the upswing, the real estate industry is keeping its momemtum
of growth. This is compounded by rising remittances from OFWs.
In 2007, the National Statistical Coordination Board registered a 6.3 unemployment rate. It also registered that out
of some 33.6 million employed Filipinos, 18.1% are considered underemployed or those employed but still looking for another job because
of dissatisfaction in the current job brought about by very low wages, among other reasons. Out of those employed, 36.1% are
in agriculture and fishing, 15% in the industrial sector, and 48.9% are in services. Although the unemployemnt seem to be that low, there
is really an accute scarcity of good paying jobs in the country. This is evident in the millions of Filipinos workers seeking employment
abroad and the prevalence of street vendors and hawkers especially in the urban areas.
War on Poverty
While the government continue to congratulate itself for achieving annual economic growth, it is next to impossible
that it would admit its failure to solve the chronic problem of poverty afflicting millions of Filipinos. Several poverty alleviation
measures of the government such as the Self-employment Assistance Kaunlaran (SEA-K), Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan (KALAHI), and the recently Ahon
Pamilyang Pilipino (APP) or the cash transfer to indigent families are at best stopgap measures to fight poverty. There is a need for more
widespread projects that can really make a difference in the lives of the poor.
One admirable anti=poverty program is the OTOP. The "One Town One Product" (OTOP) scheme of the government is helping localities focus on the development of viable
industries where such localities have a distinct advantage. This would give impetus to the industry clustering intitiative. It encounrages entrepreneurs to share experiences
to pool resources together for better production and marketing strategies. It remains to be seen, however, whether the government is really serious in making OTOP
successful in generating income for the poor people.
Read more on the economic problems of the Philippines
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