Workers are seen installing steel at a construction site in Santa Cruz, Manila, Oct. 26, 2022. — PHILIPPINE STAR/EDD GUMBAN

THE wholesale price growth of building materials in Metro Manila rose to its highest level in over 10 years in March, according to preliminary data issued by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).

The PSA said price growth was driven by a pickup in construction activity, and supply issues arising  from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and fresh coronavirus outbreaks in China.

The PSA said the construction materials wholesale price index (CMWPI) in the National Capital Region (NCR) rose by 6.6% year on year in March, accelerating from 5.2% in February and 2.2% a year earlier.

The March reading was the highest since the 6.9% posted in January 2012.

In the year to date, CMWPI averaged 5.7%, against the 1.8% year-earlier average.

The jump in the CMWPI was propelled by price growth in most commodities, with fuels and lubricants prices rising 36.3% in March from 31.8% in February, followed by reinforcing and structural steel (10.5% from 7.2%), and electrical works (10% from 9.2%).

Other commodities posting price growth were GI sheets (13.5% in March from 13% in February), plumbing fixtures and accessories/waterworks (7.4% from 6.6%), concrete products and cement (4.8% from 3.3%), plywood (4.5% from 4.1%), hardware (3.5% from 3.2%), lumber (3.1% from 2.5%), and sand and gravel (2.5% from 2.2%).

Prices of tileworks, meanwhile, declined by 0.4% in March, following a 1.5% retreat in February.

Price growth of doors, jambs, and steel casements eased 1.4% in March from 2.2% in February. Price growth of the remaining commodity categories was unchanged.

Asian Institute of Management Economist John Paolo R. Rivera said the lowering of movement restrictions in Metro Manila allowed construction projects to operate full-time.

“Demand for construction materials increased as construction activities entered full swing,” he said in an e-mail interview.

“However, supply chain constraints persist due to a lot of factors such as the continuing war in Eastern Europe (and) new lockdowns in other countries,” Mr. Rivera added.

Metro Manila and other areas were placed under the more permissive Alert level 1 quarantine setting in March, allowing more businesses to operate at full capacity.

In late March, China locked down its financial capital Shanghai in pursuit of a zero-COVID policy, hindering business operations in all but essential sectors.

“CMWPI may continue to increase as demand continues to increase and supply chain constraints persist. However, this can be tempered if supply chain constraints (are) alleviated,” Mr. Rivera said. — Bernadette Therese M. Gadon