The economy grew by 6.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015, the highest quarterly growth for the year, but slower than the 6.6 percent a year earlier, data released by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) on Thursday showed.
The fourth quarter gross domestic product (GDP) compares with the revised 6.1 percent in the third quarter, missing the government target.
"The fourth quarter GDP was driven by the Services sector which accelerated to 7.4 percent from 5.6 percent while Industry decelerated to 6.8 percent from 9.1 percent," National Statistician Lisa Grace S. Bersales told reporters in a briefing.
"On the other hand, Agriculture contracted by 0.3 percent from a growth of 4.2 percent in the previous year," Bersales noted.
"Agriculture pulled down the growth," outgoing Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan said. "Serious threats" influenced the output, he said noting the El Niño phenomenon and the global economy.
"We cannot afford to be complacent. We need to build resiliency in each sector of the economy... If we let the numbers for the past six years speak for themselves, agriculture seems to be the most persistent road block to economic growth," he said.
"There is an urgent need to rethink the development strategy for this sector... We need to revitalize agriculture efforts," he said.
Higher growth path
The GDP is the total monetary value of all finished goods and services produced by a country over a specific period.
The latest figures brought the full-year 2015 GDP to 5.8 percent, down from the 6.1 percent in 2014.
Jonathan Ravelas, market strategist at BDO Unibank, told GMA News Online he wasn't disappointed by the latest GDP results.
"This is on line with our full-year forecast at 5.7 percent... Our fourth quarter 2015 expectation is 6.3 percent," Ravelas noted.
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan earlier said the economy must achieve a 6.9-percent GDP in the fourth quarter to achieve at least a 6.0-percent full-year growth.
The government targeted a 7 percent to 8 percent full-year GDP for 2015.
At the same briefing Thursday, Balisacan told reporters, "The 6.3-percent growth in the last quarter of 2015 affirms that the economy is indeed steadily traversing the higher growth path, building on the solid efforts by both public and private sectors.
"For 2015, among the major developing countries, the Philippines will likely be among the fastest in Asia, next to India, the People’s Republic of China, and Vietnam," the Cabinet official said.
He noted the economic growth from the first to the fourth quarter has been very encouraging.
"Though this (full-year growth) is lower than what we targeted for the year, this growth is respectable given the difficult external environment, the onset of El Niño, and the challenges in government spending in the first semester," Balisacan said.
However, the stock market seems unimpressed. The benchmark PSEi was up 1.99 points or 0.03 percent to 6,509.21 at 11:17 a.m., after trading in the red since the opening bell.
"The market is still trying to digest the data," Lexter Azurin, head of research at Unicapital Securities Inc., said in a text message to GMA News Online.
"The Q4 growth was better than expected... However, the full year is still way below the target of 6 percent to 7 percent while the outlook for 2016 is still a slow down," Azurin noted.
Despite missing the 2015 target, Balisacan said the country may still reach a 7 percent to 8 percent economic growth in the coming years.
The main drivers of the growth would be infrastructure development, an efficient transport system, and human capital, Balisacan noted.
The sentiment was mirrored by Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda.
"These encouraging results are in line with the government's commitment to growth that is both inclusive and sustainable," he said in an emailed statement.
In another statement, Finance Secretary Cesar V. Purisima noted the six-year moving average of real GDP growth at 6.2% percent as of 2015 is the highest since 1978.
"Economic performance remains resilient and robust amid a global slowdown," he added. – VS, GMA News