Philippine merchandise exports declined by 3.0 percent in December 2015 despite the double-digit increase in petroleum sales, according to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

The Philippine Statistics Authority reported today that total revenue from Philippine exports fell by US$143 million, reaching US$4.7 billion in December 2015 from US$4.8 billion in the same month in 2014. Lower sales in manufactures, agro-based and mineral products accounted for the drop, which tempered increased earnings from petroleum products.

Petroleum exports increased by 11.9 percent after three consecutive months of decline due to the recent low oil price environment. But the slowdown in the country’s major trading partners, such as China, dragged down revenues from merchandise exports.

Export of manufactured goods declined by 1.8 percent to US$4.1 billion in December 2015, after posting a slight improvement of 3.6 percent growth in November 2015.

“Advanced and emerging economies continue to face difficulties. In particular, the slowdown in China due to on-going structural transformation, as well as the contractionary fiscal policies in oil-exporting countries as they adjust to declining oil revenues, pose risks to the Philippine economy this year,” said Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Emmanuel F. Esguerra.

“As soft global demand is expected to continue, the challenge is to be able to expand export market destinations and diversify product offerings,” the Cabinet official said.

“But on a positive note, the Philippines’ major trading partners such as the United States, Japan and the Euro area are expected to post a slight recovery this year,” Esguerra added.

Overall, Esguerra stressed that the Philippines should take advantage of the ASEAN Economic Community when it takes full effect this year.

“Expanding market opportunities in emerging export markets such as India and Mexico can boost the country’s merchandise exports, as they have been increasing their demands for consumer products,” said Esguerra.

He added that the country should remain committed to the implementation of the Manufacturing Restructuring Program (MRP) to complement such market and product diversification efforts.

“Implementing the MRP will rebuild the domestic production base and improve competitiveness through innovation. Given the high multiplier effects and potential for employment generation, the revival of the manufacturing sector is expected to spur domestic employment and investments in the country,” said Esguerra.