PH exports down, imports up in February
Merchandise exports fell in February, cutting short 15 straight months of year-on-year growth, while imports sustained their double-digit increase to keep the balance of trade in goods at a deficit, the latest preliminary Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) data released on Wednesday showed.
The value of Philippine-made goods sold abroad last February declined 1.8 percent to $4.659 billion from $4.743 billion a year ago, the first time that exports dropped since November 2016.
In a statement, the state planning agency National Economic and Development Authority attributed the decline in exports that month to “lower receipts from total agro-based products, manufactures, and petroleum products.” It cited, for instance, that “among agro-based products, exports of coconut products fell by 50.8 percent from a high 66.9-percent growth in 2017.”
“This is due to the lingering effects of tropical storms that hit Visayas and Mindanao during the latter part of 2017, as well as the substitution of coconut oil with more competitively priced palm oil in some markets,” Neda Undersecretary and officer-in-charge Rosemarie G. Edillon explained.
As for imported goods, their value jumped 18.6 percent to $7.724 billion in February from a year ago’s $6.511 billion.
As of February, imports have been posting double-digit growth for five consecutive months.
As such, the total external trade in goods in February grew by a tenth to $12.38 billion from $11.26 billion during the same month last year.
Wider trade deficit
However, as imports exceeded exports, trade in goods remained at a deficit of $3.06 billion, wider than the $1.77 billion posted in February last year.
The trade deficit had brought the current account—the total value of exported goods and services, minus the total value of imports—to a deficit, which in turn weakens the peso.
The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas earlier reported that the current account swung to a $2.5-billion deficit in 2017, the biggest since 1999.
Last year, the country’s chief economist, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia, said the sustained wider trade-in-goods deficit was “not good, but transitory and manageable.”
Economic managers had said that as the Duterte administration rolls out its ambitious “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program alongside expectations of sustained strong economic growth, demand for imports would remain robust in the near term.
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