Dr. Emmanuel F. Esguerra, Secretary of Socioeconomic Planning and NEDA Director-General, was the keynote speaker during the Visayas Shipping Conference 2016 convened by the Philippine International Seafreight Forwarders Association (PISFA) at the Waterfront Hotel in Cebu City last 28 April.
In his speech entitled ‘Transport Industry Directions 2016: Philippine Macroeconomic Outlook” to an audience of cargo industry stakeholders, Sec. Esguerra stressed that the 6.2 percent average annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth attained in 2010-2015 was accompanied by structural transformation. The higher share of investments and industry on the demand and supply side, respectively, has been generating more and better quality jobs. Growth was supported by monetary and financial conditions, a low inflation environment, and a strong fiscal position. He added that watchers of the Philippine economy expect this growth to be sustained in 2016.
Given thte expected drivers of growth and risks to growth in 2016, NEDA still targets higher growth, of even up to 8 percent. This is going to be made possible through, among others, increased investments in public infrastructure to at least 5 percent of GDP in 2016 or about P768 billion. In the medium-term, the NEDA is pushing for infrastructure spending to reach P1 trillion or 5.4 percent of GDP by 2018.
On transport directions, Sec. Esguerra said that the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2011-2016 emphasizes the need for seamless multimodal transport network and logistics system, including the road roll-on-roll-off terminal system. The Philippines is signatory of the ASEAN Framework Agreement on MultiModal Transport, with DOTC and DTI holding discussions for its implementation. The challenge, according to the Secretary, is to improve the country’s Logistics Performance which is a low 57 out of 160 countries, and lower than its ASEAN neighbors, in the 2014 global ranking.
The Secretary noted that in Central Visayas, most economic indicators suggest that economic growth in 2010-2014 was sustained in 2015, despite downsides from the agriculture and export sector. The upsides for the transport and logistics industry in the near and medium-term are the various ongoing and planned port, airport, road, and bridge projects in the region. In addition, the Bureau of Customs has started 24/7 operations in the Cebu port, and the DOTC is reviewing the feasibility study for the proposed new Cebu International Port (CIP) and will submit this to NEDA-ICC for approval.
Other resource persons in the Conference discussed the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act which is targeted to be signed by May 2016; the proposed New Cebu International Container Terminal; enhancements at the existing CIP Terminal; amendments to the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) re container weight verification for implementation in July 2016; the PISFA’s draft of the road map for the Philippine multimodal transportation and logistics industry; and the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry wish list for transportation and logistics.
Sec. Esguerra engaged in discussions with NEDA Regional Office 7 Regional Director Efren B. Carreon and his senior staff before and after the Conference, sharing inisights and next steps for addressing various concerns expressed by development stakeholders.