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[box type=”default” size=”large”] Tourism industry also severely hit by disaster [/box]MANILA – The World Bank (WB) has lowered its economic growth forecast for the Philippines this year and 2014 following the onslaught of super-typhoon “Yolanda” that left more than 7,500 dead or missing and flattened buildings and other infrastructures in the Visayas.

Rogier van den Brink, World Bank Philippines lead economist, said the Philippine Gross Domestic Product (GDP) may grow by 6.9 percent this year and 6.5 percent in 2014.

The latest growth projection of the Washington D.C.-based multilateral agency is lower than its previous GDP growth forecast of 7 percent and 6.7 percent.

The World Bank raised, however, the country’s economic growth expansion forecast for 2015 from 6.8 percent to 7.1 percent.

The Philippines is Asia’s second best performing economy next to China before Yolanda wreaked havoc in the country.

With the expected economic slowdown, Van den Brink urged the government to implement a timely recovery and reconstruction program in the typhoon-hit areas to ease the economic and social impact of the super typhoon.

“The costs of Yolanda’s reconstruction program include the substantial mark-up for both the private and the public sector to rebuild at the higher standards needed to deal with the more extreme weather events caused by climate change,” Van den Brink said.

“Going forward, finding a fiscally sustainable solution to deal with these ever more frequent events and maintaining the current excellent economic performance will be the key,” he added.

Earlier, the World Bank approved a $500-million quick-disbursing budget support to the Philippines. The amount will be used in dealing with the short-term recovery and reconstruction efforts in the Visayas.

On tourism, the Philippines is unlikely to hit its target of five million tourists this year due to devastation caused by Yolanda as well as the 7.1-magnitude earthquake that hit Bohol and Cebu.

Yolanda hit last November 8, and the 7.1-magnitude earthquake on October 15, causing devastation in tourist areas. This, in turn, resulted in the cancellation of reservations, said Domingo Enerio, chief of the Tourism Promotions Board of the Department of Tourism.

Both the 2013 target and the 6.8 million target for 2014 may have to be revised in the face of the devastation, he said.

Tourist arrivals up to September have reached about 3.6 million, up from 3.2 million in the same period last year, Enerio said.

But the disasters will affect arrivals in the last three months which are the peak season for tourists, he warned.

The earthquake, which killed more than 220 people, shattered historic churches and tourism facilities and damaged roads in the central islands of Cebu and Bohol, both popular tourist destinations.

Less than a month later, Yolanda swept through the central islands, leaving more than 7,500 dead or missing and devastating whole towns, including popular hotels, beach resorts, surfing, and dive sites.

Worldwide news coverage of the destruction has discouraged visitors, Enerio said.

“These resorts are in that particular area which is very well known in the international markets,” he also said. (Manila Bulletin)