CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga – The year 2022 saw the economy of Central Luzon steadily moving forward and leaving behind the crippling effect of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Amid the domestic and external challenges that the Philippines experienced in the past months, primarily brought by the high inflation rate and the continuing threat of the virus, the region’s economy bounced back following the gradual resumption of economic activities.
National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Regional Director Gina Gacusan said although the economy in Central Luzon is not yet back to the pre-pandemic level, the region is performing better this year compared to last year, fueled by the continuous improvement in the services and industry sectors.
Employment and Investments
Based on the report of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), the employment rate in Central Luzon was recorded at 95 percent in July this year as a result of increased social and economic activities.
In terms of magnitude, the PSA reported that employed persons in the region were estimated at 5.5 million, higher than the 5.1 million in April 2022 and 4.7 million in the same period of 2021.
Jesito Ponio Jr., NEDA supervising economic development specialist, said the labor market in Central Luzon is improving, with the unemployment rate decreasing to 4.7 percent as indicated in the October 2022 Labor Force Survey of the Philippine Statistics Authority.
“Central Luzon’s labor market is improving, reflecting that it is continuously rebounding,” Ponio said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Central Luzon shared 10.4 percent of total committed investments in the country for the third quarter of the year, the third largest among the regions, following Bicol Region and Eastern Visayas.
“The region remained a favored investment destination in the country as it generated a value equivalent to 11 percent of the total approved investments in the country during the third quarter of 2022,” Ponio said.
Freeports’ good performance
The regional economy was also boosted by the good performance of the three freeports in the region -- Subic, Clark and the Freeport Area of Bataan.
The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) has approved foreign direct investments worth some PHP32.98 billion, which accounted for 71.34 percent of the total PHP46.23 billion approved by all Investment Promotion Agencies (IPAs) in the country during the second quarter of 2022.
SBMA chairman and administrator Rolen Paulino attributed the big leap from PHP20.5 million approved investments in the same period last year to the aggressive efforts of the SBMA business group in attracting investors in Subic Bay.
The Clark Freeport Zone, on the other hand, is becoming a premier destination for the meetings, incentives, conferences, exhibits (MICE) segment with the opening of world-class hotels such as the Hilton Clark, Swissotel Clark and Hann Casino Resort.
The Clark Development Corporation was awarded as the Sports Tourism Destination of the Year for transforming Clark into a premier tourism destination and for being the epicenter for multiple sporting events.
The Freeport Area of Bataan (FAB), meanwhile, is now among the fastest-growing economic zones in the country based on the number of locators, investments and workers.
FAB administrator Emmanuel Pineda said FAB has a total of 94 operating companies generating about 39,695 workers as of October this year.
Pineda said FAB generated a total of PHP11.3 billion worth of investments from its enterprises, PHP158.5 million from port services revenue and USD835 million from export transactions.
Central Luzon experienced a slowdown in the agricultural sector due to weather disturbances in the third quarter of 2022.
As a result, the region’s share of the national output slid to fourth place with 333,193 metric tons of the total 3,788,615 metric tons of palay produced for the third quarter of this year.
Corn production in the region was also affected by Super Typhoon Karding with 30,959 metric tons for the third quarter of the year, contributing only 1.3 percent to the country’s total corn output.
Central Luzon, however, consistently remained the top chicken and duck-producing region in the country despite the decline in production in the third quarter of this year.
The region’s contribution to chicken and duck accounted for about one-third or 32 percent of the national production level.
The total fishery production in the region slightly increased during the third quarter of the year with 45,903 metric tons from 45, 601 metric tons harvested in the same quarter last year.
Following the reopening of some tourist destinations in the region, the Department of Tourism (DOT) in Region 3 said there is a 64 percent increase in tourist arrivals or 1,261,030 during the third quarter of this year as against the same period last year.
Teri Flores, the spokesperson of the Luzon International Premier Airport Development (LIPAD) Corporation, noted the rising number of passengers following the opening of Clark International Airport’s new terminal.
This December alone, Flores said there are more than 100,000 passengers who arrived in the country via Clark International Airport, a 20 percent increase compared to last month.
With the full operation of the new terminal, some 12 million passengers per year are expected to arrive via Clark International Airport.
Economic outlook for 2023
The year 2022 is seen to be another good year for Central Luzon’s economy amid the high inflation rate and the continuing threat of Covid-19.
“It has been indeed a productive year for the region despite the pandemic and I can only have high hopes for the full economic recovery in 2023 and onwards,” said Nestor Mangio, president of the Pampanga Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. (PamCham).
PamCham director Theresa David-Carlos is optimistic that the vibrant economy of Pampanga and the rest of Central Luzon will continue in the coming year.
“We look forward to a more vibrant economy and so many things to look forward to,” she said.
Meanwhile, NEDA 3 Economic Development Specialist Al Jonnel Espiritu said the recovery cluster agencies in the region have been implementing various interventions to curb inflation.
These, Espiritu said, include Kapatid Mentor Micro Entrepreneurs – Money Market Encounter of the Department of Trade and Industry 3, National Fish Broodstock Development Program and Fuel Subsidy Program of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources 3; and the High-Value Crops Development Program of the Department of Agriculture-3.
He also said protecting the purchasing power, particularly for food, is a major objective in the strategic framework of the Central Luzon Regional Development Plan 2023-2028. (PNA)