MANILA, May 10 (Xinhua) -- The Philippine economy grew by 6.8 percent in the first quarter of 2018, faster than the growth recorded in the same quarter of 2017, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said on Thursday.
Manufacturing, other services, and trade were the main drivers of growth for the quarter, the PSA said.
Among the major economic sectors, the PSA said industry recorded the fastest growth at 7.9 percent. "This was followed by services with a growth of 7.0 percent. Agriculture also grew at a slower pace of 1.5 percent," the PSA said.
The PSA said net primary income increased to 4.3 percent during the quarter. Meanwhile, it said the gross national income (GNI) posted a growth of 6.4 percent, faster than previous year's growth of 6.3 percent.
"With the country's projected population reaching 105.8 million in the first quarter of 2018, per capita gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 5.1 percent," the PSA said.
Meanwhile, the PSA said the country's per capita GNI and per capita Household Final Consumption Expenditure grew by 4.7 percent and 4.0 percent, respectively.
Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said this is the 10th consecutive quarter that the economy was able to achieve an output expansion of 6.5 percent or better.
"It is at par with market expectations and close to the low-end of our full-year growth target of 7.0 to 8.0 percent for 2018," Pernia said.
If not for the first quarter 2017 to the first quarter 2018 rate of increase in inflation, Pernia said real GDP growth would have been well within Philippine growth rate targets of 7.0 to 8.0 percent.
"So, inflation is the spoiler, that is why we really need to focus on inflation," Pernia said.
In any case, Pernia said the Philippines remains one of the best performing economies in the region, next only to Vietnam's 7.4 percent growth, and higher than Indonesia's 5.1 percent.
"This performance demonstrates that we have firmly laid the groundwork for reforms in some of the sectors of the economy," Pernia said.
Pernia expressed optimism that the Philippines will hit at least the lower end of its growth target this year.
"But even as we face challenges, we remain hopeful that at least the lower end of the full year GDP growth target range of 7-8 percent is doable," Pernia said, adding that domestic demand is expected to increase in view of the recently approved tax reform package, which is deemed to boost income and consumption of tax payers.
However, Pernia stressed the need to boost investor and consumer confidence to sustain this growth.
"Our country's growth implies that we have the potential to become an upper middle income country, perhaps even as early as next year," Pernia said.