, May 5 , 2004
By Rica D. Delfinado   -  The country’s export earnings rose by 7.1 percent to $3.35 billion in March from $3.129 billion in the same period last year, lifted by a rise in global demand for the country’s key electronic exports, the National Statistics Office (NSO) reported yesterday.

This brought total exports for the first three months of the year to $9.2 billion, a 6.3 percent increase over the same period last year.

Export growth in March sustained the 7.5 percent gain posted in February and showed that demand for electronic products–the country’s main export–remained robust, analysts said.

Electronic products, which accounted for 67 percent of total exports in March, went up by 9.8 percent to $2.24 billion from $2.042 billion in the same period last year.

Analysts said worldwide sales of electronic products are expected to rise by 20 percent this year as corporate spending on new technology appears to be picking up.

Global semiconductor sales for the first quarter of the year grew by 34 percent to $48.8 billion from $36.4 billion in the same period last year.

Chee Seng Wong, regional economist of DBS Bank, said the slightly lower export growth in March, compared to February, was not really a slowdown.

"I think the momentum was maintained as Philippine electronic exports continued to benefit from higher global demand despite very strong competition with its neighbors," Wong said.

At the same time, Wong said the government’s target of 10 percent growth in exports for 2004 seemed over optimistic, putting the outcome more likely at six to seven percent.

Apparel and clothing accessories remained the second largest export with 5.4 percent of the total but were down 6.3 percent in March to $179 million.

Earnings from other products manufactured from imported materials were third at $60.65 million followed by ignition wiring set and other wiring sets with $54.96 million.

Rounding up the list of top exports for March were: woodcrafts and furniture, $34 million; fresh bananas, $28 million; metal component, $27 million; and petroleum product, $24 million.

Japan was the largest market for Philippine exports in March with total purchases worth $678 million or more than 20.2 percent of the total.

The US was second with a 16.8 percent share or shipments worth $561 million followed by the Netherlands with purchases amounting to $250.98 million.

Other top buyers in March were: Hong Kong, $290 million; Singapore, $214 million; Malaysia, $208 million; China, $176 million and Germany, $101 million.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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