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Mobility curbs boost online purchases of imported goods—data

MOBILITY restrictions to contain the spread of Covid-19 boosted the Philippines’s online purchases of imported manufactured items, including consumer goods, telecommunication equipment, and office equipment, based on latest trade data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).

The PSA reported on Thursday that export earnings contracted 2.3 percent while imports posted a growth of 2.7 percent, the highest since April 2019.

Exports in January contracted 4.8 percent and grew 3.4 percent in February 2020. Imports contracted 12.1 percent in January and 7.3 percent in February 2020.

“E-commerce, induced by movement restrictions due to Covid, may have favored imported consumer manufactured goods not only of food items but also durables,” said former Dean of University of the Philippines School of Economics Ramon L. Clarete.

Based on data for imports, capital goods such as office and electronic data processing (EDP) machines surged 22.9 percent and telecommunication equipment and electronic machines grew 10.6 percent.

Further, imports of manufactured goods grew 20.4 percent in February led by a 52.2-percent growth in Textile yarn, fabrics and made-up articles and Non-metallic mineral manufactures which grew 40.8 percent.

Data also showed that imports of consumer goods saw an increase of 3.9 percent led by a 36.8-percent growth in home appliances.

“If [it is confirmed that] imports surged of the items that local manufacturing can produce, that is very worrisome. [This means] China is better positioned to ride the new wave of e-commerce than locals,” Clarete added.

Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua told reporters on Thursday that “these are signs of recovery overall” and hopes that the improved performance will continue in the coming months.

However, Ateneo Center for Economic Research and Development (Acerd) Senior Fellow and John Gokongwei School of Management Dean Luis F. Dumlao said the recovery would only happen in May.

Dumlao said the opening of the US economy in May will also signal the opening of the country’s other export markets. This will not only improve export performance but also boost manufacturing output.

“Manufacturing and exports will slowly pick up beginning in May. The road to normalcy will [begin] when the Philippines meets herd immunity,” Dumlao said.

Earnings and receipts

Total Philippine export earnings decreased to $5.31 billion in February 2021 from $5.43 billion in February 2020. In January 2021, export earnings reached $5.52 billion.

The cumulative export earnings from January to February 2021 amounted to $10.83 billion, a contraction of 3.6 percent from the export value of January to February 2020.

Commodity groups posting the highest increase in export earnings in February are chemicals which grew 80.5 percent; other mineral products, 37.4 percent; coconut oil, 21.4 percent; and miscellaneous manufactured articles, 21.2 percent.

Import receipts, meanwhile, rose to $7.6 billion in February 2021 from $7.4 billion in February 2020. In January 2021, the import bill reached $8.4 billion.

The cumulative import value from January to February 2021 amounted to $16 billion, representing a decline of -5.6 percent from the import value of $16.96 billion in the same period of 2020.

Top commodity group imports in February were led by telecommunication equipment and electrical machinery at 23.2 percent; other food and live animals, 13.7 percent; plastics in primary and non-primary forms, 8.8 percent; and industrial machinery and equipment, 7 percent.


The country’s top export markets are the US, with the highest export value of $895.74 million, or a 16.9 percent in total exports for the month.

Completing the top 5 major export trading partners were Japan with $880.59 million (16.6 share of the total); Hong Kong, $659.22 million (12.4 percent); People’s Republic of China, $639.42 million (12 percent); and Thailand, $260.24 million (4.9 percent).

In terms of import sources, China remained the biggest supplier of imported goods valued at $1.9 billion or 24.9 percent of total imports in February 2021.

The other major import sources: Japan with $693.19 million or 9.1 percent of total;, Republic of Korea, $680.96 million, 9 percent; Singapore, $560.16 million, 7.4 percent; and Indonesia, $513.85 million, 6.8 percent.

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