Philippine economy grows 7%

MANILA - The Philippine economy expanded 7.% in 2013 despite a devastating typhoon and a powerful earthquake that slowed performance in the last quarter, the government said Thursday.

The growth in gross domestic product (GDP) last year was up from 6.8% in 2012, the National Statistical Coordination Board said.

"This is a remarkable turnout,'' Socio-Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said. "The economy grew better than our expected target ... despite the challenges we faced during the year, particularly the disasters that struck in the fourth quarter.''

GDP in the October-December period grew 6.5% year-on-year, short of the target of 6.9%. The target was revised downward from 7% after a 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck in October and Typhoon Haiyan battered the Philippines in November.

More than 200 people were killed in the earthquake and 6,201 died when Haiyan flattened communities in the eastern Philippines. The two disasters caused damage valued at nearly US$1 billion (33 billion baht).

Despite the slower growth in the fourth quarter, the Philippines remains one of the best-performing economies in Asia in the period, second only to China, which grew by 7.7%, Mr Balisacan said.

The government expressed optimism that the economy will remain strong in 2014, but admitted that first-quarter growth would be weighed down by last year's disasters.

"It will take some time for establishments in typhoon-affected areas to recover assets and regain momentum, and this is expected to affect the growth in the first quarters of 2014,'' Mr Balisacan said.

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