ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
PHL March imports rise 9.6% as economy stirs
Philippine merchandise imports rose 9.6 percent to $5.42 billion in March from $4.95 billion a year earlier, reflecting orders for productive economic activity, the National Statistics Office reported Tuesday.
“The robust growth in total merchandise imports was mainly due to higher value of raw materials and intermediate goods, mineral fuels and lubricants, and consumer goods,” said Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said in a separate statement.
Trade deficit settled at $146 million, or 42 percent narrower from $253 million in the same comparable period, NSO data showed.
In the first quarter, imports totaled to $16.17 billion, up 12 percent from $14.44 billion a year earlier.
Trade deficit for the three-month period widened to $1.85 billion from $1.05 billion year-on-year.
According to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), the Philippines followed Vietnam and Singapore as top performers in import growth among major trade-oriented economies in East and Southeast Asia. Vietnam continued to lead the region with a 13.7 percent year-on-year growth while Singapore placed second with a 13.4 percent annual gain.
The first quarter Philippine data is a "good indication" of imports this year, Bank of the Philippine Islands lead economist Emilio Neri Jr. told GMA News Online.
"Full year projection for this year is much stronger, which is double-digit for real imports data," he said.
Mineral fuels and lubricant accounted for a chunk of the import bill for March, equivalent to 23.6 percent of the total. In value terms, mineral fuels and lubricants reached $1.28 billion, up 23.3 percent from $1.04 billion.
Mineral fuels and lubricants continue to be strong and is "is consistent with strong numbers from transportation demand," Neri said.
Components used by the semiconductor and electronics industry, ranked second or 22.1 percent of the total. The value of imported electronic parts, however, slipped by 4.3 percent to $1.198 billion from $1.25 billion.
Balisacan said the reversal of the contraction in March 2013 reflects the more upbeat outlook on business operations in the second quarter of 2014, as indicated in the latest Business Expectations Survey of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.
“The volumes of business activity index and total order book index reached an all-time high of 46.1 and 39.7 index points, respectively," Balisacan, who is also NEDA director-general, said.
"This is mainly due to robust expectations on consumer demand and infrastructure spending, partly boosted by the Typhoon Yolanda rehabilitation efforts during the period," he added.
China was still the top source of inbound shipments at 15.2 percent or $564.49 million of the imports bill followed by South Korea at 12 percent or $416.64 million.
The NSO revised the import numbers in 2013 to $62.41 billion, higher by 0.45 percent from $62.13 billion – still missing the government's 12-percent growth goal. – VS, GMA News
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