By Philippine news Agency
TACLOBAN CITY – East-ern Visayas enjoyed more economic gains in 2018 with no major calamities that disrupted business activities, despite being one of the country’s most disaster-prone region.
The region’s six provinces did not experience major earthquake similar to what struck Leyte prov-ince early of July 6, 2017 and pow-erful typhoons that devastated Biliran province mid-December last year.
“The only damaging natural occurrence that hit the region is the flooding in Eastern Samar last November, but its negative impact was mitigated through quick and massive assistance by the Depart-ment of Agriculture in affected ar-eas,” said National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Regional Director Bonifacio Uy.
The official believes that the impact of natural hazards is a major factor that worsens poverty situation in the region as they destroy the people’s source of livelihood.
The region is one of the most calamity-prone areas in the coun-try due to its geographic location, facing the Pacific Ocean in the eastern portion and within the Pacific Ring of Fire.As of the first half of 2018, ag-riculture and fishery production improved by 4.71 percent. Gainers during the period were rice, corn, coconut, banana, sugarcane, and livestock products.
Rice, the most vulnerable crop to disaster, posted a production growth of 7.88 percent in the first semester. This could be credited to the distribution of highyielding varieties and suff icient water supply during the period, Uy said.
Eastern Visayas region is a predominantly farming area, where 45 percent or 976,415 hectares of its total land area is devoted to agriculture.
The good economy is evident in the sustained double-digit growth in the region’s bank deposits during the first six months of the year. The region’s deposit portfolio grew by 13.67 percent to Php 115.43-billion in the first half of 2018.
“More bank deposits means that people gain more income this year and they’re able to save some of the amount in banks,” the NEDA official said.
Uy noted that the construction boom continues despite slowdown of postdisaster recovery projects in the region due to President Rodrigo Duterte’s “Build, Build, Build” program and private sector investments.
The Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation (PDIC) banking statistics, posted on its website, showed the total number of accounts grew by 9.87 percent, from 901, 471 to 990,514 during the first six months of 2018.
The number of banks increased to 234 in 2017 from 214 in the previous year. All provinces also posted significant growth in both accounts and deposits.
Business name registrations totaled to 1,463 in the f irst six months of 2018.
“More than half of these were new registrants, an indication of the renewed enthusiasm of businessmen to invest in the region,” Uy added.
Giant firms such as SM Prime Holdings and Robinsons Land Corp. opened their new malls in Ormoc City this year. This year, Double Dragon Properties Corp. also kicked off the construction of two malls in Ormoc City and Palo, Leyte this year.
Initial data on the number of foreign tourists in the region as of first half rose by 20.8 percent, reaching 28,769, while domestic tourists slightly dropped by 2.0 percent.
More tourists are expected to visit Eastern Samar now that the Balangiga Bells are back after these were seized and kept by the US government for 117 years.
“These bells will bring a lot of opportunities not just in Eastern Samar, but in the entire Samar Island since we have been promoting the three provinces as one tourism destination,” Department of Tourism Regional Director Karina Rosa Tiopes said. (PNA)