Imports recovered in September, amid the seasonal surge in consumer goods production to serve demand for the year-end holidays.
Economists, however, expressed doubt that the growth would be sustained.
The National Statistics Office reported on Tuesday that imports grew by 3.6 percent in September—the latest in a see-saw pattern seen since the start of the year—to $5.267 billion from $5.083 billion in the same month last year.
“The import growth target of 12 percent is now virtually unreachable. Since year-to-date imports grew 0.5 percent in the first three quarters, imports should expand by 46.5 percent in the last quarter in order to meet the government’s import target,” Dr. Benjamin E. Diokno of the UP School of Economics said in text message.
Diokno noted that shipments of electronic products continued to sag, contracting by 5.8 percent in September and by 11.7 percent in the first three quarters.
“It will be difficult to achieve the import growth target because of slower exports,” Cid L. Terosa of the University of Asia and the Pacific said. He, however, noted that the import performance would likely continue to be strong in the fourth quarter because of demand during the holidays and the rise in the prices of oil products.
Merchandise exports may not show “spectacular changes” in December but that period can be a turnaround point for better export performance next year, Terosa said.
The NSO attributed the import growth in September on the higher purchases of goods such as mineral fuels, cereals and related products, telecommunication equipment and electrical machinery, and industrial machinery and equipment.
Electronic products, including consigned and direct importation, contracted by 5.8 percent in reported value to $1.359 billion from $1.443 billion a year ago. Semiconductors, which accounted for the bulk of electronics trade, decreased by 9.1 percent in September to $993.28 million from $1.092 billion.
The aggregate payment for the country’s top 10 imports for the month reached $3.928 billion, or 74.6 percent of the total import bill.
China supplied a big portion of the Philippines’ imports, the NSO said, with a 12.3-percent share in total payments. The import bill from China reached $649.22 million, an increase of 30.1 percent from $499.05 million in the same month last year.
The NSO said telecommunications equipment and electrical machinery, as well as mineral fuels and fertilizers, accounted for the bulk of the imports from China.
The United States came in second, accounting for $574.72 million (5 percent up from $547.44 million), or 10.9 percent share of total.
Taiwan came in third, accounting for 9.8 percent share of the total import bill in September, representing an increase of 77 percent to $515.87 million from $291.45 million a year ago.
Japan ranked fourth with 9.4 percent share of the total. The value of imports from Japan, however, decreased by 21.4 percent to $493.76 million from $627.91 million last year. Commodities purchased from Japan during the period consisted mostly of electronic data processing, semiconductors, and organic and inorganic chemicals.
Other major sources of imports in September this year were Korea, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, and Malaysia, including Sabah and Sarawak.
Payments for imports from the top 10 sources in September 2012 amounted to $3.958 billion or 75.1 percent of the total, NSO said.