PSA regional director Leni Rioflorido presents the results of 2020 ASPBI to provincial and regional stakeholders

Tight restrictions imposed in Palawan and Puerto Princesa during the peak of the pandemic resulted in few new businesses opening in 2020 and 2021, said the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).

With 890 newly-listed businesses, Palawan, including Puerto Princesa, ranked fourth out of five provinces in the MIMAROPA region. Oriental Mindoro has the most establishments (4,125), followed by Romblon (1,299), Occidental Mindoro (1,292), and Marinduque (722).

Regional Director Leni Rioflorido attributed the low number of newly-listed establishments in Palawan to the strict implementation of health protocols. It was reported during the presentation of PSA’s 2020 Annual Survey of Philippine Business and Industry (ASPBI) and 2021 Updating List of Establishments (ULE).

“Ang Palawan kasi naging istrikto masyado during the COVID-19, pinaka mahigpit daw ang Palawan sa buong MIMAROPA region unlike sa Oriental Mindoro. Adjacent lang, malapit lang pumunta sa Manila, kahit papaano hindi ganun ka-istrikto kaya siguro maraming sumulpot na establishment sa Oriental Mindoro. Sa higpit ng COVID-19 protocol, it affects ‘yong pagtatayo ng mga establishment,” she said.

The region’s services sector was also hampered by a lack of commercial flights and sea transportation.

PSA saw it as a major contributor to the decline of the services sector because those are the means of access to the region’s tourist destinations.

“Sabi ko nga, because of the transportation, communication, and storage–yong airlines natin, yong air transpo, yong marami natin sa sea, barko na halos kaunti yong bumiyahe during the period ng pandemic, so apektado. Yon ang major contributor natin sa decline. But during the pandemic syempre naghigpit din tayo because of the COVID-19,” she said.

The services sector is one of the three broad industry groups along with industry and agriculture measured by the PSA in the conduct of ASPBI. The ASPBI was conducted to provide key measures on the levels, structure, performance, and trends of businesses and industries. These numbers will be used by government planners, policymakers, and administrators to make plans, policies, and programs for social and economic growth.

The number of businesses, jobs, salaries, income, expenses, and sales from e-commerce transactions has gone down the most in the services sector, she explained.

The services sector has 12 sub-sectors, including wholesale and retail trade, repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles, transportation and storage, accommodation and food service activities, information and communication, financial and insurance activities, real estate activities, professional, scientific, and technical activities, administrative and support service activities, education, arts, entertainment, and recreation, human health, and social work activities, as well as other service activities.

Despite the decline in the services sector, the Provincial Planning and Development Office (PPDO) expects to achieve economic growth in 2023 as restrictions have been relaxed since the height of the pandemic.

Sharlene Vilches, officer-in-charge, said that the province is also working on stabilizing population growth, citing that the gross regional domestic product (GRDP) overpopulation determines the per capita and poverty incidence of Palawan.

“We are expecting economic growth by 2023. Ini-expect natin na ma-double natin ang gross growth ng ating GRDP. 210 billion in 2017, ini-expect natin na mag-grow siya in 10 years, it means we can also decrease poverty by two percent. Yong ini-imply lang don na we are on the right track of lowering the poverty incidence. Possible na yong 2040 in MIMAROPA ay wala na mahirap at maaabot natin na no one will be left behind,” she said.

The PSA is yet to report the Provincial Product Account in 2021 but initially stated that the GRDP of the region has started to gradually recover. However, it was affected by the damage caused by Odette in December 2021.