By Victor V. Saulon, Sub-Editor
THE COUNTRY should be able to hit the Trade department’s merchandise export target in 2018, officials of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said on Friday, even though growth will be in low single-digit rate and will lag behind last year’s pace.
“We will meet our targets for 2018 and we don’t see any problem meeting the targets also for the rest of the year,” Senen M. Perlada, director of DTI’s Export Marketing Bureau, said in an interview at the sidelines of the National Export Congress 2018 at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City.
“For this year, we’re looking at about — the target for this year is a range — $86-$87 billion. We’ll hit over $88 [billion],” he added.
“The growth rate is not what we have targeted. We have targeted absolute amounts.”
Separately, Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez told reporters at the sidelines of the same event that merchandise export growth for the first two quarters of 2018 had been negative, but the third quarter saw a 0.3% year-on-year increment.
Preliminary Philippine Statistics Authority data show value of merchandise exports grew 9.5% to $62.875 billion last year against an eight-percent projection of the Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC).
But the nine months to September this year saw sales of Philippine goods abroad drop 2.1% to $50.755 billion against the DBCC’s downgraded two-percent growth projection for full-year 2018.
The DBCC is a multi-agency group formed in May 1970 to prepare and recommend the national budget — both expenditures and sources of funding — to the President. It consists of the Office of the President, the central bank, the National Economic and Development Authority, as well as the departments of Finance and of Budget and Management.
“Hopefully, we can still catch up with a positive number. I think a low single digit (growth) puwede pa (is still possible) for December,” Mr. Lopez told reporters.
“Ang importante kasi talaga ‘yung (What’s really important is) supply. We really have to have the supply for exports. When I say supply halo-halo na (it’s mixed) — both agriculture-based and non-agri-based,” he explained.
“Supply situation has to be addressed definitely,” he added. “I’ve been pushing for greater investments, more manufacturing activities, more activities in the ecozones,” he said.
“It’s important that we still provide an investment climate conducive for investors to come in, hopefully more on manufacturing that will build our production capacity.”
Mr. Lopez said that as merchandise exports struggle, manufacturers can still rely on strong domestic demand.
“Sometimes those for exports are also diverted to meet domestic demand,” he said.
“We supply the domestic demand. You really need to expand that capacity that will allow you to meet the growing domestic demand and still allow you to meet the growing export market.”
One bright spot in merchandise exports is the electronics segment, whose foreign sales grew by 5.743% to $28.46 billion in the eight months to September, accounting for 56.07% of total outbound shipments of Philippine goods in that period.
“Electronics, I just heard, double-digit growth siya. Hopefully it can pull up a bit for the last quarter the total for goods, as more than half of our exports are electronics.”
Mr. Lopez said export growth figures for the year could still change because of the processing of statistics, which comes in late.
“Remember what happened last year. We grew 10% in exports and then nung pumapasok na ‘yung ibang (when other) data on exports (came in), it turned out we grew 19% or 20%,” he said.
“What also happened is we’re coming from a higher base. Ngayon nahirapan this year [It’s tougher this year) to match that,” he added.
“Hopefully what we are seeing now is an incomplete number yet. In other words, if we can get more documents to be processed and more export numbers to come in, hopefully it can improve also the growth reports.”