The Philippine economy has sustained one of the fastest growth rates in Asia, official data showed Thursday, which analysts said signalled strong economic leadership from President Rodrigo Duterte even as he wages a deadly drug war.
The economy expanded by 6.4 percent on a yearly basis in the first three months, the government said, which was slightly lower than expectations but still the second fastest in the region after China.
“The Philippines remains one of the strongest performers among the major emerging economies in Asia,” Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia told reporters.
The Philippine economy has now grown at six percent or higher for seven consecutive quarters. The only other nation in the region to report a faster expansion in the first quarter of 2017 is China, which posted growth of 6.9 percent.
Analysts said the result showed Duterte was succeeding in decoupling his controversial drugs crackdown, which has left thousands dead since he came to office in the middle of last year, from economic affairs.
“There has been no let up in Duterte’s controversial war on drugs, but he is sticking to his pledge to leave economic policy in the hands of his well-respected finance secretary,” said Gareth Leather of London-based consultancy Capital Economics.
Duterte, a former city mayor and government prosecutor, has said he will focus on the drug crackdown while leaving stewardship of the economy to trusted senior aides led by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez.
Eugenia Victorino, an economist at ANZ research, said Duterte’s decision to name a career central bank official, Nestor Espenilla, as its new governor would help put a lid on rising inflation.
Victorino said the Philippines remained on track to achieve 6.9 percent economic growth for the full year.
Jonathan Ravelas, chief market strategist for Manila-based BDO Unibank, described Duterte’s spat with Western governments over alleged extrajudicial killings in his drug war as “just noise” that would not impact on economic growth.
“If we focus on infrastructure spending alone it should be enough,” Ravelas said, referring to planned multi-billion-dollar investments in airports, bridges, roads and rail.
Pernia, the economic planning chief, said manufacturing and robust exports were the main drivers of growth this year while the farm sector turned around from a decline late last year. Growth was achieved despite a slowdown in construction, which Pernia said would recover soon with the infrastructure spending.RSS

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