By Ronnel W. Domingo, May 11, 2023; Philippine Daily Inquirer

Manila  -The Philippines’ gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 6.4 percent in the first quarter of 2023, the slowest pace in seven quarters since the 12 percent in the second quarter of 2021, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.

The first-quarter readout is better than the private sector economists’ median forecast of 6.2 percent.

National Statistician Dennis Mapa said in a press briefing that the main contributors to the first-quarter growth were wholesale/retail trade and repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles which grew by 7 percent; financial and insurance activities (8.8 percent); and “other services” (36.5 percent).

In the first quarter, all three major economics sectors posted growth — industry (3.9 percent), services (8.4 percent); and agriculture, forestry and fishing (2.2 percent).

Mapa said the main contributors to the slowdown in the GDP growth in the first quarter were mining and quarrying , which contracted by 2.2 percent; public administration and defense, and human health and social work activities.

He said that while output from mining and quarrying contracted, the other two industries grew at slower paces.

On a quarter-on-quarter basis, growth slowed to 1.1 percent from the earlier reported 2.4-percent expansion in the previous three-month period.

Analysts polled by Reuters had expected first quarter GDP to grow by 6.1 percent on annual basis.

The Philippine economy’s  stronger-than-expected first quarter performance was within the government’s 6 percent to 7 percent target for 2023.

Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan in a press conference said the Philippines was returning to its high-growth trajectory, despite global headwinds, although interest rate hikes by the central bank could dampen future growth.

He said the government was ready to withstand shocks and risks to the growth outlook, adding that high inflation remained a challenge but appeared to have peaked.