Imports growth flat in July

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Philippine merchandise imports showed little growth in July after a revised 1.4 percent contraction in June, but were virtually flat on a year-on-year basis, data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed on Thursday.

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Total import payments amounted to $5.49 billion in July 2014, only $140,000 higher than the level in the corresponding period in 2013.

Cumulative imports for the first seven months of the year rose 4.8 percent to $36.946 billion from $35.246 billion in the same period a year earlier.

Imports increased during the month for eight of the top 10 major commodities: Transport equipment; miscellaneous manufactured articles; plastics in primary and non-primary forms; iron and steel; mineral fuels, lubricants and related materials; organic and inorganic chemicals; telecommunication equipment and electrical machinery; and other food and live animals.

On the losing side were electronic products imports, which contracted 29.8 percent and industrial machinery and equipment, which declined 5.3 percent.

Regional phenomenon
The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said the almost nil expansion of imports in July may be a reflection of a regional phenomenon as the majority of the East and South East Asian trade-oriented economies registered decreases in imports.

The agency said Vietnam, Taiwan, and South Korea were the only countries in the region that posted growth in merchandise imports with increases of 16.4 percent, 9.5 percent, and 5.8 percent, respectively.

“The overall performance of merchandise imports is showing signs of mild recovery from its decline of -0.4 percent in May this year. Year-to-date growth is also better than last year’s -1.6 percent contraction. However on a year-on-year basis, it is way below the 8.9 percent growth in 2013,” NEDA Deputy Director General Emmanuel Esguerra said in a statement.

Esguerra noted that sharp contractions in the imports of materials and accessories used in the manufacture of electrical equipment, in other raw materials for production, as well as in imports of capital goods need to be monitored periodically since they provide signals on future demand conditions on both domestic and external fronts.

The NEDA official noted that it is also important for the government to continue exploring avenues for greater opportunities within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) region and take advantage of increased economic cooperation among Asean countries.

The PSA data showed that the value of imported commodities from major Asean trading partners represented about 23.7 percent ($1.3 billion) of total imports, mainly capital goods and materials needed for the manufacture of electrical equipment.

China remained the top source of imports with a 14.2-percent share worth $781.92 million. Other top sources were Japan, Taiwan and the United States.

Esguerra also mentioned that while the lifting of the truck ban may partly ease the problem of port congestion in Manila, the fundamental issue of improving the capacity and efficiency of alternative ports should be addressed.

The City of Manila on September 12 decided to end the implementation of the 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. truck ban to give way to national government efforts to decongest the capital city’s ports.

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