Philippine merchandise imports grew 21.8 percent in January to $5.8 billion, reflecting robust domestic demand and brisk economic activity at the start of the year. January’s import growth reverses the sluggish performance seen in the last quarter of 2013, when imports slipped by 0.1 percent year-on-year in December following a slight 0.5 percent uptick in November and an 8.6 percent drop in October. It was also the fastest pace recorded since March 2011, when imports increased by 21.9 percent. “The three-month moving average growth in January 2014 suggests that imports could be trending upwards in line with the expected recovery in exports,” Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said in a statement. Data released by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) on Tuesday showed that imports in January jumped to $5.8 billion from $4.7 billion in January 2013.