February 11, 2020

The Philippine government should step up its efforts against downside risks brought by health- and climate-related hazards that can affect the trade sector, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said.

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported today that the country’s total merchandise trade picked up by 2.4 percent in December 2019, reaching USD14 billion, a recovery from an 8-month decline. This development is especially important as goods exports exhibited a strong recovery at 21.4 percent increase year-on-year.  The government, however, needs to remain vigilant of the risks brought about by the onslaught of disasters in the Philippines, and the outbreak of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus in one of its major trading partners, China.

Starting January, relief efforts for the affected residents of the Taal Volcano eruption and the containment of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus have become the focus of government efforts.

“The impact of the novel coronavirus could escalate if plant closures related to the production of automotive and electronic parts negatively affect the country’s exports receipts as this accounts for about a third of the country’s outward shipments to China,” said Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia.

“While the spread of the virus is a national and global concern, there are still areas of opportunity that the country could optimize to offset possible fallout from the spread of the virus,” he added.

In the near term, the production of health and hygiene products could expand both in the domestic and exports markets.

Moreover, Pernia said the government must encourage foreign firms to increase their investments in or relocate to the Philippines to further strengthen its position in the value chain.

“We must cultivate an environment that encourages and supports businesses with streamlined procedures and reduced transaction costs,” the Cabinet official said.

Pernia likewise said that the country should persist in its efforts to diversify Philippine products and market partners through aggressive campaigns on product branding and business matches that will reach non-traditional partners in order to de-concentrate its exposure to limited markets.