MANILA – Merchandise imports expanded by 9.6 percent to US$5.4 billion in March 2014 from US$5.0 billion in March 2013, according to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

“The robust growth in total merchandise imports was mainly due to higher value of raw materials and intermediate goods, mineral fuels and lubricants, and consumer goods,” said Economic Planning Secretary and NEDA Director-General Arsenio M. Balisacan.

The country’s merchandise imports maintained its upward trajectory as its three-month moving average growth increased further to 12.0 percent in March 2014. It also marked a reversal of its 7.8 percent contraction in March last year.

Total payments for imported raw materials and intermediate goods increased by 8.1 percent to US$2.1 billion in March 2014 from US$1.9 billion in the same period a year ago.

“Among semi-processed raw inputs, higher imports of materials and accessories for the manufacture of electrical equipment provided the largest boost to the sub-group’s annual expansion, indicating a buoyant prospect for Philippine electronic exports,” noted Balisacan.

As indicated in the latest Business Expectations Survey of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), this positive performance is a reflection of businesses’ more upbeat outlook on their own operations in the second quarter of 2014.

“The volumes of business activity index and total order book index reached an all-time high of 46.1 and 39.7 index points, respectively. This is mainly due to robust expectations on consumer demand and infrastructure spending, partly boosted by the Typhoon Yolanda rehabilitation efforts during the period,” said Balisacan.

Meanwhile, imports of consumer goods amounted to US$723.1 million in March 2014, up by 18.0 percent from US$612.7 million in the same period last year. Favorable performance of both non-durable and durable goods supported the overall gain in the value of imported consumer items.

“In particular, higher payments for passenger cars and motorcycles and miscellaneous manufactures, buoyed the total value of consumer durable segment. During the period, there was also a notable increase in domestic car sales,” the Cabinet official said.

The People’s Republic of China remained the top source of the country’s imports with a 15.2 percent share, amounting to US$825.5 million. Second was Republic of Korea with a 12.0 percent share, followed by Singapore (7.9%), United States of America (7.7%), Japan (7.4%), Taiwan (6.4%), France (5.6%), Thailand (4.7%), Indonesia (4.7%), and Saudi Arabia (4.2%).

The value of imported goods from ASEAN-member trading partners as explained in this forex trading website represented 22.4 percent of Philippine merchandise imports in March 2014, equivalent to US$1.2 billion worth of imported goods. Meanwhile, the European Union (EU) supplied US$712.8 million or about 13.1 percent of the country’s total import requirements in March 2014.

The Philippines followed Viet Nam and Singapore as top import growth performers among major trade-oriented economies in East and Southeast Asia. Viet Nam continued to lead the region with a 13.7 percent year-on-year growth while Singapore placed second with a 13.4 percent annual gain.