General Santos City – 2020 was a year that can never be forgotten, but the people of SOCCSKSARGEN are dreamweavers and resilient. Thus, the outlook for the year 2021 is promising which depends on the safe reopening of the economy under the most stringent compliance with health protocols and roll-out of vaccines to attain herd immunity, National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) XII said.

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) announced that the region’s economy contracted by 4.3 percent, from PhP 470 Billion in 2019 to PhP 450 Billion in 2020, as reported during the News Conference on SOCCSKSARGEN Region’s 2020 Economic Performance on 29 April 2021 at the East Asia Royal Hotel.

The press conference convened by PSA XII via blended mode was attended by representatives from different regional line agencies, PSA Central Office, private sector, and members of the tri-media of SOCCSKSARGEN. NEDA XII Regional Director and RDC Vice-Chairman Teresita Socorro C. Ramos provided a statement on the implications of the 2020 GRDP on the regional development of SOCCSKSARGEN.

In terms of contribution by commodity group, the service sector which accounts for the largest share of the region’s GRDP dropped by 8.9 percent. Most affected are those in personal services for wellness, repair of personal and household goods, laundry services, repair of computers and communications equipment which declined by 44.6 percent. The implementation of Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) or popularly known as “lockdown” from the middle of March to early May 2020, resulted in a decrease in sales of these institutions. The accommodation and food service declined by 34.5 percent.

The decrease of 1.3 percent in the industry sector can be attributed to the cancellation of orders and spoilage/expiration of products of the MSMEs due to long periods of lockdown and the difficulty of transporting the goods due to the documentary requirements during the height of the pandemic. However, data on commercial fish (at 1.35 percent) and pineapple (0.68 percent) posted a slight increase in 2020 which implies continuous processing of the major export industries in the region such as the manufacturing of fresh/canned/frozen tuna and other fish products both fresh/canned. The construction sub-sector declined by 14.7 percent while manufacturing dropped by 2.7 percent.

Among the three major sectors, agriculture remained resilient in 2020 at a 1.5 percent growth rate. This may indicate that government efforts in ensuring the availability and sustainability of food in the region were realized. The volume of rice production grew by 8.2 percent, although the increase in the volume of corn was slight at only 0.07 percent.

NEDA XII RD Ramos remarked that the prospects and opportunities in 2021 remain hopeful. The region’s recovery from the economic shocks brought by the pandemic hinges on the safe reopening of the economy with compliance to minimum health protocols and the continued roll-out of the vaccine in the region. As of April 20, 2021, a total of 48,201 first dose vaccines have been administered to the A1 priority group which accounts for 79.89 percent of the target A1 group in the region.

She added that the operationalization of the new Sultan Kudarat Provincial Hospital in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat, and hopefully, the transfer of the SOCCSKSARGEN General Hospital to DOH XII will improve the quality of the health care system and services in the region.

To support our farmers and migrants in the agriculture sector, food security and agricultural productivity would be enhanced. The region’s livestock industry would be properly safeguarded through strict border controls against frozen food products to avoid the influx of diseases such as ASF. The agriculture sector is expected to continue posting positive trends in 2021 as demand for food products from Region XII increases with the opening of the economy of Metro Manila and neighboring regions.

In addition, NEDA XII RD Ramos mentioned that the roll-out of the National ID system which will address better targeting for government social programs has already started its registration for low-income households since January 2021.

Government spending through Bayanihan and FY 2021 budget as well as the implementation of Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) and Financial Institutions’ Strategic Transfer (FIST) will also underpin economic recovery. CREATE will provide relief to private industries affected by the COVID-19 pandemic by reducing their corporate income taxes while the FIST law will strengthen the financial sector by helping banks free up capital and funds to lend to more businesses facing liquidity issues.

The NEDA XII Regional Director reiterated that the government is committed to do what is necessary for the region to fully recover. However, she emphasized that everyone needs to do their part by adhering strictly to our minimum health protocols.

“Collectively, as one region, let us build a BETTER NORMAL COMMUNITY towards a matatag, maginhawa at panatag na buhay para sa lahat, or the AmBisyon Natin 2040”, NEDA XII RD Ramos said. (Ruby Abegail C. Serrano, NEDA XII)