IMPORT GROWTH IS SIGN OF RESILIENT ECONOMY - NERI

Manila, June 22, 2003 (Star) Despite the uncertainties from SARS and the recent US-Iraq war, imports of manufactured goods for the month of April surged by 20.7 percent to $2.4 billion reflecting the resiliency of the Philippine economy, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Romulo Neri said, yesterday.

Neri, citing the latest external trade performance statistics from the National Statistics Office (NSO), said imports of materials used for construction rose in April, which include iron and steel (45.7 percent), non-ferrous metals (26 percent), metal products (51.8 percent), and iron ore (86.4 percent). "This indicates a rebound in the construction business," Neri said.

Likewise, paper and paper products and textile yarn and fabrics grew by 31.5 percent and 33.3 percent, respectively.

He said growth in imports of manufactured goods bodes well for the manufacturing sector, which grew by 5.3 percent in the first quarter of 2003.

He noted that for the first quarter of 2003, private construction went up by 25.1 percent from 1.7 percent in the same period of 2002.

Total imports fell 7.6 percent in April 2003 caused mainly by the dip in electronic imports. Imports of electronic products, which correspond to 44.2 percent of total imports in April, plunged by almost 21 percent year-on-year to $1.4 billion.

The domestic electronic industry relies heavily on consigned and direct importation of electronics products. The Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines, Inc. (SEIPI) has warned of a lower growth in electronics exports due to a delay in recovery in the global electronics market. SEIPI added that the industry is experiencing a weak start in 2003, risking the sustained recovery in Philippine exports.

"We expect the global and local economy to recover by the second semester of the year," Neri said.

Mineral fuels and lubricants, which accounts for 9.6 percent of the country’s imports, also slid by 5.9 percent year-on-year to $307 million, after six months of continuous growth. Neri attributed this to the initiative of the oil companies which stocked up on crude oil during the first quarter to avoid a shortfall in oil due to the Iraq war.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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