MANILA—Merchandise imports grew by 0.3 percent due to higher import payments for raw materials and intermediate goods in tandem with consumer goods, according to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

“The country’s imports maintained its growth momentum as its three-month moving average growth was maintained at around 9.5 percent in February 2014,” said Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan.

Payments for imported goods during the period reached US$4.72 billion from US$4.71 billion in February 2013. Total trade-in-goods deficit narrowed to US$1.6 billion in the first two months of 2014 from US$1.7 billion in the same period a year ago.

“Imports of raw materials and intermediate goods, which grew by 29.0 percent, and consumer goods, which increased by 6.8 percent, offset the lower payments for inward shipment of mineral fuels and lubricants and capital goods,” he added.

Imports of raw materials and intermediate goods reached US$2.2 billion in February 2014 and accounted for about 46 percent of total merchandise imports.  Raw materials and intermediate goods are used as inputs in the production of other commodities that will be sold domestically or internationally.

“The  imports performance of raw material and intermediate goods was mainly due to the increased inward shipments for both semi-processed and unprocessed raw materials,” said Balisacan, who is also NEDA Director-General.

The value of imported semi-processed raw materials grew by 30.1 percent, propelled by the 61.9 percent increase in the imports of materials and accessories for electrical equipment.

“The increase in this segment paralleled the optimistic prospects on the continued recovery of the country’s electronic exports, following the consecutive growths recorded in their export sales since September 2013,” said the Cabinet Secretary.

Meanwhile, the value of imported consumer goods reached US$632.2 million in February 2014 from US$591.8 million in February 2013.

Balisacan said that the improved imports performance reflects the optimistic outlook of businesses as evidenced by new construction projects, both public and private, and boosted by rehabilitation efforts from typhoon Yolanda. He added that brisk business prospects have also risen due to companies’ competitive marketing strategies.

Meanwhile, imports from the European Union grew by 82.3 percent in February 2014 compared to the same month last year.

“This reflects the Philippines’ higher demand for capital goods, particularly aircraft, ships and boats, power generating and specialized machines, as well as materials accounting for the manufacture of electrical equipment,” said Balisacan.

The People’s Republic of China remained the top source of the country’s imports with a 12.1-percent share, equivalent to US$571 million. Second was the United States of America (10.3%), followed by Japan (9.9%), South Korea (8.2%), Taiwan (6.6%), Thailand (5.8%), Germany (5.3%), Indonesia (5.0%), and Malaysia (4.7%).