by Alito L. Malinao
MANILA, Oct. 11 (Xinhua) -- The full-year growth of the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries, already battered by the global economic slowdown, is expected to further dip after the region was hit by two strong typhoons one after the other early this month.
Philippine Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Cayetano Paderanga Jr. has said that the interagency Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) which sets the country's macroeconomic assumptions, may adjust the gross domestic product (GDP) growth target for the year after assessing the impact of the two typhoons.
The administration of Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, now on its second year, has said that it still hopes to attain its low-end growth of 5-6 percent this year.
But most investment banks have lowered their growth forecasts for the Philippines, with the U.S.-based Citigroup saying that the country's growth could slide down to 3.7 this year from its original forecast of 3.9 percent.
The Manila-headquartered Asian Development Bank also expects the country to grow by 4.7 percent while the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation forecast a 4.3 percent growth for the Philippines in 2011.
The devastation brought by the two recent typhoons could have big impact on the country's growth forecast, with large areas of Central Luzon, particularly in the provinces of Bulacan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija and Pangasinan, still being flooded even after typhoons Nesat and Nalgae have left.
According to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), the continuous rains brought about by new weather disturbances would take it almost a month for the water in affected areas to subside.
The death toll due to the floods and typhoons has already topped 100, with another 34 missing. Property damage estimate from the two storms has reached 14 billion pesos (321.84 million U.S. dollars)
Some 3 million people, especially in Central Luzon, were affected by the twin typhoons, which lashed the Philippines carrying center winds of at least 140 kilometers per hour.
The two typhoons could also derail the Aquino government's rice self-sufficiency program because of the damage to agricultural crops. The country hopes to attain rice self-sufficiency in 2013.
But the recent typhoons damaged an estimated 11 billion pesos ( 252.8 million dollars) of palay (unhusked rice), representing 760, 207 metric tons (MT), or 7.7 percent of second semester projected harvest of 9.88 million MT.
Total rice yield last year was only 15.77 million metric tons, three percent lower than production in 2009 as prolonged droughts caused by El Nino phenomenon dampened output.
Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala has created an interagency task force to assess and validate the actual damage, particularly on palay, corn and high value crops.
Alcala said the Department of Agriculture will also implement an initial set of interventions to help farm families recover from crop damage due to the typhoons.
The government has also earmarked some 400 million pesos (9.19 million dollars) to provide crop production loans for typhoon- affected farmers.
The state-led Philippine Crop Insurance Corp. (PCIC) has also released 334 million pesos (7.6 million dollars) to cover farmers' losses owing to the two typhoons, its largest amount to date.
But despite the setback, Alcala said there is no need to import additional rice to meet the domestic demand, adding that the country's rice production remains stable since the country yielded a record 7.58 million metric tons in the first half of the year.
So far, the country imported 200,000 metric tons out of the projected shortfall of 860,000 metric tons in 2011. The Philippines bought a record-high 2.45 million metric tons last year from leading exporters Vietnam and Thailand.
The Philippines is set to be battered by three or four more howlers before the end of the 2011 after enduring 17 storms so far, according to the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration.
Disasters are commonplace in the Philippines. In fact the country was ranked first worldwide with the most number of disasters that hit a country, according to the Center for Research and Epidemiology Disasters (CRED).
According to CRED's annual statistical review, the Philippines led the list of natural disaster events with 24 followed by China with 16, making the country the hardest hit in terms of calamities that pose a serious threat to life.
Natural disasters are defined as events where 10 or more people are killed; 100 people or more are affected; a state of calamity was declared; and there's a call for international assistance.