Imports slid by over a tenth in February as shipments from China—the Philippines’ top source of foreign-made goods—contracted at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Initial figures released by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) on Wednesday (April 8) showed that the country’s merchandise exports inched up 2.8 percent year-on-year to $5.4 billion last February, but the value of imports fell 11.6 percent to $7.1 billion that month.

The bigger slide in imports pulled down the total February trade volume by 5.9 percent to $12.5 billion from $13.2 billion a year ago.

The imports slump nonetheless narrowed the month’s trade-in-goods deficit by nearly four-tenths to $1.7 billon from $2.7 billion last year.

In its report, the PSA attributed the lower imports in February to “decreases in the top 10 major import commodities.”

These included cereals and cereal preparations (down 28.2 percent), industrial machinery and equipment (down 24.7 percent) and transport equipment (down 17.6 percent).

The other commodity groups whose imports declined year-on-year last February were telecommunication equipment and electrical machinery; mineral fuels, lubricants and related materials; other food and live animals; plastics in primary and non-primary forms; iron and steel; electronic products; and miscellaneous manufactured articles.

PSA data showed that while China remained the Philippines’ biggest import source with a 12.9-percent share or $908.8-million in goods, the value dropped from the $1.6 billion recorded in February last year.

Global supply chains had been affected by the massive lockdown across China to control the spread of the COVID-19 disease, which originated from the city of Wuhan in Hubei province.

“The public health emergency we are experiencing emphasizes the need to fast-track reforms to facilitate trade by reducing transactions costs,” said Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia in a statement.

“We must be creative in finding ways to ease the movement of goods and services while we continue to implement measures to combat COVID-19,” he said.

Edited by TSB


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