Both exports and imports surged by more than a fifth in March amid strong domestic production and demand, the National Economic and Development Authority said Thursday.
Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority showed merchandise exports jumped 21 percent in March to $5.6 billion from $4.6 billion in the same month last year. This was also higher than $4.7-billion exports recorded in February.
Imports climbed 24 percent in March to a record $7.9 billion from $6.4 billion a year ago and $6.5 billion in February.
The total trade in March reached $13.5 billion, up by 21 percent from the same month in 2016.
“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 Rolando Tungpalan said in a statement.
Total trade in the first quarter reached $37.6 billion, up from $31.7 billion a year ago. Exports grew 18.3 percent in the three-month period to $15.5 billion, while imports increased 18.6 percent to $22 billion.
This widened the country’s trade deficit to $6.54 billion in the first quarter from $5.5 billion a year earlier.
Tungapalan said the export growth in March was led by the 16.5-percent growth in outbound sales of manufactured goods, 33.6 percent increase in agro-based products and 94-percent rise in mineral exports.
March exports were supported by the sharp increase in receipts from Hong Kong (38.9 percent), China (38.9 percent), South Korea (7.3 percent), Taiwan (17.5 percent), US (20.4 percent), and EU (56.2 percent).
Meanwhile, higher purchases of capital goods, raw materials and intermediate goods, mineral fuels and lubricants and consumer goods supported the growth in imports in March.
Neda said the Philippines’ trade growth in March was faster than Indonesia’s 20.9 percent, Malaysia’s 20.4 percent, Vietnam’s 20.2 percent and Thailand’s 13.8 percent.
“These figures support our view that the Philippines will be the fastest-growing economy among the Asean-5 this year,” said Tungpalan.
He said this could 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,” Tungpalan said.
He also pushed for innovation-led developments and said that in order to fully leverage on the region’s growth, micro, small and medium enterprises must be integrated in global value chains.