MANILA, August 4 , 2004 (STAR) (AFP) - Surging Asian demand helped boost Philippine exports by 8.2 percent from a year earlier to 3.313 billion US dollars in June, but the decline in shipments other than electronics is worrying, the government said Wednesday.

Despite the figures showing the seventh consecutive monthly rise in Filipino merchandise shipments abroad, a senior government official expressed concern that exports other than electronics are losing ground.

The June growth "may largely be attributed to Asia's high demand for Philippine products, specifically Japan (45.2 percent year-on-year increase), China (22.3 percent), Singapore (13.2 percent), and Taiwan (11.6 percent)," Economic Planning Secretary Romulo Neri said in a statement.

A 17.7 percent surge in electronics exports to 2.275 billion dollars and a 19.9 percent improvement in shipments of machinery and transport equipment, the first and third largest export groups respectively, powered the growth, government figures showed.

For the six months to June exports rose 8.5 percent to 18.7 billion dollars, the National Statistics Office said in a statement.

"The year-to-date growth of electronics products stands at 9.75 percent, strengthening hopes that the country will achieve its 10 percent exports target for the year," Neri said.

Electronics made up 68.7 percent of total exports for June. In the sector, semiconductor exports rose 12.5 percent, while shipments of electronic data processing machines surged by 40.3 percent and communication and radar equipment advanced by 56.8 percent. Office equipment exports also improved by 15.7 percent.

At the same time, garments exports, the second main export category, plunged 15.9 percent in the first half, due to a decline in demand from North America, Neri said.

Shipments of textiles and yarn were also off 15.8 percent.

"The continued decline of exports other than electronics increases the concentration of exports in electronic products which makes the country vulnerable to cyclical swings in the (information technology) sector," Neri said.

Exports of agricultural products also slowed in June falling 5.6 percent from a year ago on weaker sales of fruits and vegetables, shrimps and prawns, and sugar.

Exports of coconut oil as well as coconut meat both increased, but were unable to lift the sector as a whole, Neri said.

Japan was the largest buyer of Philippine exports, consuming 677.58 million dollars worth, or 20.4 percent, of the total in June. Sales to Japan were up 45.2 percent from a year ago.

"This is the highest percent share of exports to Japan for a number of years," the statistics office said in the statement without giving details.

The United States was the second largest buyer of Philippine exports in June with 535.63 million dollars worth, or 16.2 percent of the total, but it was still down 24.2 percent from a year ago.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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