[MANILA] Philippine exports dropped for the 12th straight month in March on weak demand in key markets such as the United States and China.
Shipments fell 15.1 per cent from a year earlier to US$4.61 billion, the biggest drop in six months, with seven of the country's top 10 exports posting declines, the statistics agency said on Wednesday.
However, a bump-up in government spending particularly on infrastructure projects ahead of last weekend's presidential election and still robust domestic demand should offset any weakness in trade, economists said.
"The latest exports numbers reflect the weak economic outlook for the world economy," said Nicholas Antonio Mapa, economist at Bank of the Philippine Islands.
"But the weakness in the trade sector will be offset by some compensation in government spending and the solid consumption story of the Philippines."
Electronics exports, which accounted for 51.1 per cent of total exports in March, rose a mere 1 per cent, with semiconductors, which usually have the biggest share among electronics products, down 0.4 per cent.
Total exports in the first quarter were down 8.4 per cent from a year earlier to US$13.1 billion.
Mapa expects the Philippine economy grew 6.2 or 6.3 per cent in the first quarter from a year ago. The government will release the GDP data on May 19.
Exports to top destination Japan dropped 13.6 per cent, while shipments to the United States, the second biggest market, were down 23.6 per cent. Exports to the third biggest market Hong Kong rose 11.6 per cent, while shipments to China, the fourth biggest market, fell 23.4 per cent.
After rising 7.9 per cent in 2015, shipments of electronic products this year may rise just 2 per cent to 5 per cent, reflecting weak demand from key market China, industry group Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines Inc said.