MAY 13, 2009
(STAR) By Iris C. Gonzales - The country’s merchandise exports showed signs of a recovery in March as total shipments fell by a slower 31 percent from 39.1 percent the previous month, the National Statistics Office reported yesterday.

The data agency noted that shipments of electronics products, the country’s main export, plunged 34 percent in March from a year earlier after a 45 percent contraction in February.

Exports earnings for March 2009 reached $2.9 billion compared to $2.5 billion in the previous month but lower than the $4.2 billion in March 2008. On a cumulative basis, export revenues for the first quarter of 2009 amounted to $7.9 billion, 36.8 percent lower than the same period in 2008.

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), the government’s main planning agency, said the export figures in March 2009 indicate that the industry is slowly recovering.

NEDA noted that exports in March, in fact, posted a 16 percent growth, with all major commodity groups showing improvement from February’s performance.

In a memorandum to President Arroyo, NEDA officer-in-charge Rolando Tungpalan said the improvement in March exports compared to February showed improvement in the economies of the country’s trading partners.

“March 2009 exports represented an increase of 15.9 percent from the previous month, which was due to all major commodity groups posting positive month-on-month growth rates, indicating signs of the easing recession in trading countries,” Tungpalan said.

The government expects exports to fall 13-15 percent this year after a 2.86 percent drop in 2008 as demand from main markets like the United States dries up due to the global financial crisis.

Besides electronics, which are largely assembled from imported parts, other key Philippine exports include garments and accessories, vehicle parts, coconut oil, tropical fruit and wood furniture.

According to Arthur Young, chairman of the Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines, exports of electronics and semiconductors have hit bottom in the first quarter, with demand slowly returning due to low inventory levels worldwide.

Shipments of these products slumped 42.56 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier, but surged 19.9 percent in March against February.

Market research company iSupply Inc. has noted that “the global semiconductor manufacturing industry is expected to take a breather in the second quarter as utilization rises by 60 percent”. The majority of the country’s electronics exports for the month of March went to China, the Netherlands, United States, Hong Kong and Japan.

“There’s enough data points that we believe that we’ve seen the worst in the first quarter,” Young told Reuters. “We definitely believe the bottom has happened.”

He said the sector would likely see a contraction of 20 percent at best in exports for the full year this year after an 8.3 percent fall in 2008.

The Philippines supplies about 10 percent of the world’s semiconductor manufacturing services, including assembly of mobile phone chips and micro processors. – Reuters

The United States remained the biggest overseas market for Philippine goods with a 17.3 percent share in total export revenues in March. Japan was the second major destination of outbound shipments in March with a 15.4 percent share. Other major export markets were China (10.6 percent), Hong Kong (9.4 percent), and the Netherlands (9.2 percent).

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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