MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippine economy grew at a faster than expected 6.9 percent annual pace in the July-September quarter, helped by increased public spending on pay hikes for government personnel, officials said Thursday.
Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia described the growth reported as a "spectacular growth rate after an election year." It surpassed a market consensus forecast of 6.6 percent and was an improvement on 6.7 percent growth in April-June.
President Rodrigo Duterte inherited a booming economy when he took office in May 2016. So far growth has remained on track, despite the country's massive poverty, inequality and insurgencies.
Growth in July-September last year was 7.1 percent.
Manufacturing output expanded 7.5 percent from a year earlier, while public consumption rose 8.3 percent thanks to increased pay and allowances for public employees, including the military, Pernia said.
"We are now seeing a sustained improvement in government spending in a run-up to our massive infrastructure program_the Build, Build, Build_which will continually unfold in the months ahead," Pernia said. "This is expected to ratchet up public spending even further."
Household consumption is also seen picking up in the last quarter due to the Christmas season, he added.
Pernia said the economy is on track to meet the government's full-year growth target range of 6.5-7.5 percent.
The Philippines has posted more than 6 percent growth for nine consecutive quarters, making it among the fastest growing economies in the region.
Still, civil strife in the southern third of the country has taken a toll as seen in the dismal performance of the Philippine peso this year. Any delays in the government's ambitious infrastructure program also could pose risks.