MANILA, May 18 (Xinhua) -- The Philippine economy grew 6.4 percent in the first quarter of this year, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said on Thursday.

"The Philippines remains one of the strongest performers among the major emerging economies in Asia," Pernia said, adding the Philippines overtook Vietnam and Indonesia which grew by 5.1 percent, and Thailand by only 3.3 percent.

He said the Philippines is second only to China. India has yet to issue its growth figure for the period.

Pernia said the Philippine first quarter growth "bodes well for the economy as it is broadly in line with our target of 6.5-7.5 percent for this year.

"It is, however, lower than desirably expected, and for this we were somewhat downcast because we were expecting something like around the midpoint of growth range 6.5-7.5 percent. But this can be explained by the base effects: that is, growth last year was high due to election spending, as would already know by now, the impact of which was already dissipated," Pernia said.

The growth recorded in the first quarter was the slowest phase of growth for the gross deposits product, since it registered at 6.3 percent in the fourth quarter of 2015.

"The changing of the guards of the government and reorientation of programs really take time to settle, and this slowed government spending for the quarter," Pernia said.

On the demand or expenditure side, Pernia said the economy remains strong even with the slowdown in household spending and capital formation.