CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY- The regional economy of Northern Mindanao contracted by 5.2 percent in 2020 in terms of its Gross Regional Domestic Product (GRDP) compared to that of the previous year, reflecting fallout caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The region ranked third slowest across the country in terms of economic downtrend.

“This is well within our adjusted target range of negative 4.7 – 7.5 percent growth for the year, and even better than the country’s average of negative 9.6 percent,” said National Economic and Development Authority-X Regional Director Mylah Faye Aurora B. Cariño, CESO III, during the PSA-X News Conference of the 2020 Economic Performance of Northern Mindanao held on 29 April, this year.

Information and Communications Technology and Financial Services sectors recorded growth, showing increased uptake of digital financial services pushed by the dire necessity for internet connectivity amid the pandemic. The Agriculture sector was also up by 1.5 percent owing to increased demand for food, and favorable weather conditions.

Government Spending logged positive growth among expenditures, although performance eased to 13.0 percent from 18.6 percent in 2019.

The hardest-hit were Accommodation and Food Service Activities (-49.6%) and Transportation and Storage (-39.5%). Private Consumption and Wholesale and Retail Trade, which shared the bulk of the region’s economy, shrunk by 7.4 and 5.7 percent, respectively.  The ill-effects to the economy of the quarantine measures enforced by the government to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 disease, and improve health system capacities are evident in these sectors.

Despite overall slowdown caused by limited economic activities and mobility, the region saw improvements in employment figures in the second half of the year as the economy gradually reopened. Unemployment decreased from a high of 11.1 percent in April to 5.6 percent in October. Underemployment returned to pre-COVID-19 level as it improved from 29.4 to 20.0 percent in the same period.

Regional average inflation rate for 2020 settled at 2.1 percent, lower than the registered 2.9 percent in 2019. This stays within the 2.0 to 4.0 percent target range of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

Director Cariño furthered that 2021 prospects are encouraging and will allow Northern Mindanao to recover to pre-pandemic positions in 2022. The government will prioritize the implementation of the recovery package through higher and prudent spending based on the 2021 budget and 2020 budget and Bayanihan 2 extension, the newly approved laws (CREATE and FIST) to hasten economic recovery, passage of apt and strategic policies, and accelerate the Build, Build, Build program, COVID-19  Regional Recovery Program including the improvement of healthcare capacities, and support to the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pagasa Program.

The Department of Health targets to vaccinate 70 million Filipinos by the end of 2021 up until early 2022, giving premium to frontline health workers, vulnerable groups, and economic frontline workers. “The timely implementation of the vaccination program will greatly contribute to the country’s strong recovery,” added Director Cariño.

NEDA-X Regional Director Mylah Faye Aurora B. Cariño, CESO III, speaks about government imperatives to address the setbacks brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic during the News Conference on the 2020 Economic Performance of Northern Mindanao. (Photo courtesy of PIA-X)