The country’s trade deficit widened to a record $3.78 billion in November from $2.49 billion a year ago, as imports continued to outpace exports, data from the Philippine Statistics Authority show.
This brought the 11-month trade deficit to an all-time high of $25.7 billion, up from $24.2-billion gap recorded in the same period in 2016.
Data from the PSA showed that merchandise imports jumped 18.5 percent to a record $8.74 billion in November from $7.38 billion a year earlier. Merchandise exports grew by only 1.6 percent in November to $4.96 billion from $4.89 billion in the month in 2016.
Total imports in January to November rose 9.3 percent to $83.8 billion from $76.7 billion a year ago, while total exports increased 10.8 percent to $58.1 billion from $52.4 billion.
The strong imports led to a balance of payments deficit amounting to $1.8 billion in the 11-month period last year, weighing on the value of the peso and the gross international reserves.
Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said the continuous improvement of export competitiveness and identification of emerging markets for exports would help sustain merchandise trade growth.
“Exports to Asean and EU look promising. Gathering of market intelligence, such as market profiles and emerging in-demand exports, as well as information dissemination to exporters should be further strengthened to boost trade, especially exports to East Asia,” Pernia said.
The PSA said the double-digit increase in imports was brought about by the positive growth of seven out of the top 10 major import commodities for the month.
These were organic and inorganic chemicals (44.9 percent); mineral fuels, lubricants and related materials (38.6 percent); telecommunication equipment and electrical machinery (32.8 percent) miscellaneous manufactured articles (29.6 percent); iron and steel (26.4 percent); electronic products (23.4 percent); and transport equipment (6 percent).
Meanwhile, the 1.6-percent growth in exports in November was supported by the double-digit growths of six out of the top 10 major commodities for the month. These were cathodes and sections of cathodes, of refined copper (418.6 percent); gold (136.7 percent); electronic equipment and parts (47.5 percent); metal components (25.4 percent); miscellaneous manufactured articles (14.8 percent) and electronic products (12.7 percent).