PH exports, imports post robust growth

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Two-way trade jumped by almost 20 percent in the first quarter, such that state planning agency National Economic and Development Authority said it was expecting economic growth in the Philippines this year to outpace those of its neighbors.

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said merchandise exports in March grew 21 percent year-on-year to $5.579 billion, sustaining growth for the fourth straight month. Outbound shipments in the first quarter rose 18.3 percent year-on-year to $15.513 billion.

Imports rose by 24 percent year-on-year to $7.882 billion in March - the eighth consecutive month of growth, bringing first-quarter imports up 18.6 percent year-on-year to $22.053 billion.

In March alone, two-way trade climbed 22.7 percent year-on-year to $13.461 billion.

In a statement, Neda noted that in March, Philippine trade growth surpassed Indonesia’s 20.9 percent, Malaysia’s 20.4 percent, Vietnam’s 20.2 percent as well as Thailand’s 13.8 percent.

“Philippine trade during the first quarter of this year has been robust, growing a solid 18.5 percent. We are really optimistic that we can sustain this momentum in the coming months,” Neda Undersecretary and officer-in-charge Rolando G. Tungpalan said.

“These support our view that the Philippines will be the fastest-growing economy among the Asean-5 this year,” Tungpalan said, referring to the grouping that also included Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.

He said the expectations of robust economic growth in 2017 would be “anchored on recovering external demand and strong domestic consumption and investment activities.”

“We aim to follow-through by forging stronger connections with our Asean neighbors as merchandise trade with them comprises a substantial share of 21.9 percent of our country’s total trade in the first quarter,” he said.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary and Neda chief Ernesto M. Pernia earlier said he expected gross domestic product (GDP) to have had expanded by about 7 percent in the first quarter, driven by government spending on public goods and services, sustained investment flows and household consumption, as well as “upbeat” business and consumer sentiment.

For 2017, the government targets a 6.5- to 7.5-percent GDP growth, sustaining the robust 6.9-percent expansion last year.

The PSA reported that manufacturing sustained double-digit expansion for the second straight month in March, as its latest Monthly Integrated Survey of Selected Industries showed that the volume of production index (VoPI) jumped 11.1 percent that month, faster than the 8.2-percent growth a year ago.

The VoPI growth rate in March was also higher than the 10.7 percent posted in February. –