January 31, 2014 6:17 am JST

Philippine economy grew 7.2% in 2013

MINORU SATAKE, Nikkei staff writer

MANILA -- The Philippines' real gross domestic product rose 7.2% last year, driven by strong consumer spending, according to official figures released by the Southeast Asian nation on Thursday.

     Earlier, the government anticipated economic growth of 6-7%. The service sector grew in greater Manila and other areas, offsetting the havoc caused by a major typhoon that slammed into the country last November.

     The economy grew 6.5% on the year in the October-December quarter. Growth would have been as high as 7.8% if the typhoon had not struck, said Arsenio Balisacan, secretary of the National Economic and Development Authority.

     Nominal GDP for 2013 was 11.54 trillion pesos ($254 billion), the fourth-largest figure among the five major members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations after Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia.

     For many years, the Philippines experienced weaker economic growth than neighbors due to political turmoil, the withdrawal of foreign capital and other factors.

     But recently, the country has enjoyed growth in services that tap the strong English-language skills of its people and its large population. U.S. and European firms have been outsourcing administrative work and other tasks to take advantage of low personnel costs for fluent English speakers. Thanks also to the stability of the government under President Benigno Aquino, the Philippines posted the highest economic growth rate among Asean members in 2013.

     Among the issues the nation faces are the need to secure jobs in line with a growing population and to nurture the manufacturing sector.