Gov’t pins hopes on Subic, Clark to save Luzon economy

Published by rudy Date posted on March 26, 2009

The country’s economic managers are pinning their hopes on the Subic Bay Freeport zones and Clark Economic zones to keep Central Luzon’s economy humming amid a global economic slowdown.

The projected 6.9 percent economic growth in the region is “highly attainable” with the presence of Subic Bay and Clark free port zones in the area, they said.

The forecast was made during a recent briefing held at the Subic International Hotel, where the country’s top economic officials held back-to-back presentations on the government’s strategies to override the effects of the financial crisis.

Finance Secretary Margarito Teves, Socio-economic Planning Secretary Ralph Recto, and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) director Iluminada Sicat led the group of economic managers in the assessment of the economy’s strength amid the global turmoil.

Also present in the forum were Agriculture Undersecretary Segfredo Serrano, Budget and Management Undersecretary Laura Pascua, Energy Undersecretary Roy Kyamko, Trade and Industry Region 3 director Blesila Lantayona, and National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) Region 3 director Remigio Mercado.

During the briefing, Teves said the government’s fiscal reform has generated revenues that are now being invested into two economic sectors which are public infrastructure and social services to pump-prime the national economy.

He specifically cited the Subic-Clark growth corridor as being “steps ahead” compared to neighboring areas because of major infrastructure already in place.

These include the modern seaport in Subic that has given rise to a 600,000-TEU (20-foot equivalent unit) container terminal, the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport in Clark, and the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway that now links the two free ports.

With this advantage, Central Luzon, which made the third largest contribution to the country’s gross regional domestic product at 8.3 percent in 2007, “can focus on other economic arenas like attracting investments, and streamlining the process of doing business in the region,” Teves said.

Neda’s Mercado said the agriculture and services sectors will stay resilient and provide avenues for regional economic growth amid the global economic slowdown.

He added that the industrial sector’s output in Region 3, however, is expected to go down further since manufacturing, which employs 20 percent of the people in the industrial sector, had been the hardest hit by the financial crisis.

“Manufacturing is still expected to grow, but comparatively lower than that of 2007 figures,” Mercado added.

On the other hand, Mercado said that growth in the services sector — now Central Luzon’s biggest sector at 40 percent — may be pushed higher if the region could take advantage of the expanding industries in new growth areas.

Mercado said these include the fields of information and communications technology, business process outsourcing, health and wellness, logistics and port development, food processing, agribusiness, aquaculture, tourism, and ancillary services and products to locators in industrial estates and ecozones.

The economic team also concluded that with the increase in government spending, strong domestic consumption, declining inflation rates, and cooperation from the private sector, the country may attain economic growth of from 3.7 to 4.4 percent this year. –Ayen Infante, Daily Tribune

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