MANILA— Philippine merchandise exports grew by 2.9 percent as higher export earnings from manufactures and total agro-based commodities counterpoised weaker sales of minerals, petroleum, and forest products, according to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported today that the value of merchandise exports grew to US$5.2 billion during the period, from US$5.0 billion a year ago.

For the first ten months of 2014, total export revenues reached US$51.8 billion, up by 9.2 percent from US$47.4 billion in the comparable period in 2013.

Outbound sales from manufactured goods registered a 2.7 percent growth in October 2014, reaching US$4.3 billion from US$4.2 billion in the same period last year.

“This growth is attributed to higher sales of electronic products, machinery and transport equipment, miscellaneous manufactured articles, iron & steel, furniture & fixtures, and textile yarns/fabrics,” said Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan.

For the fifth consecutive month, exports of electronic products grew by 4.5 percent, at US$2.2 billion from US$2.1 billion in October 2013, backed by robust sales of semiconductors, consumer electronics, control and instrumentation, medical and industrial instrumentation, telecommunication, communication/radar, and office equipment.

Agro-based sectors also posted positive growth at 15.7 percent, with total sales receipts amounting to US$401.4 million from US$346.9 million recorded in the same period a year ago.

“This double-digit growth was supported by the favorable export performance of coconut products and other agro-based products. Export payments for coconut products rose to US$158.9 million from the amount recorded at US$90.8 million in October 2013,” said Balisacan, who is also NEDA Director-General.

Meanwhile, exports of mineral products declined by 7.7 percent to US$343.9 million from US$372.5 million in October 2014.

“This is due to lower sales in gold, other mineral products, and iron ore agglomerates,” the NEDA official said.

Likewise, the declining international prices of crude oil affected the country’s earnings from petroleum exports. With a total sales receipt amounting to US$54.3 million in October 2014, it is lower by 4.4 percent from US$56.8 million recorded in the same period a year ago.

Similarly, outbound shipments of forest products contracted by 32.5 percent, from US$8.0 million in October of previous year to US$5.4 million in October 2014.

“This period’s positive performance, despite the decline in three commodity groups, puts us in a relatively better position than our neighbors because we managed to sustain growth amid weak exports performance of almost half of the trade-oriented Asian economies,” said Balisacan.

Vietnam led the region with a 12.5-percent increase in exports, followed by the People’s Republic of China (11.6%), Thailand (4.0%), the Philippines (2.9%), the Republic of Korea (2.3%), and Taiwan (0.7%). Meanwhile, negative growth rates were recorded in Singapore (-9.2%), Malaysia (-5.8%), Indonesia (-2.2%), Hong Kong (-1.6%), and Japan (-0.8%).

“We must remain vigilant, however, as the October performance of the exports sector generally reflected the softening of the country’s main trading partners. Major economies such as Japan, China and the Euro area are facing a myriad of economic difficulties, which could dampen exports growth in the short run,” warned Balisacan.

Japan remained as the top buyer of Philippine products in October 2014, accounting for 21.7 percent of the country’s total export revenues or US$1.12 billion in total sales receipts. This is followed by the United States of America (USA) with a 15.1 percent share or US$779.2 million, and then by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) with 12.5 percent.

In terms of regional destination, shipments to the ASEAN region and the European Union accounted for 15.0 percent and 11.7 percent, respectively.

Meanwhile, domestic firms engaged in exporting activities maintain a positive outlook for the last quarter of the year due to increased consumer spending during the holiday season, abundance of raw materials and transfer of production activities of some firms from China and Thailand to the Philippines.

“Should these materialize, export performance for the remaining period of the year should at least remain positive despite economic headwinds in other economies,” said Balisacan.

Given the fragile exports growth prospect ahead, Balisacan urges the private sector and the government to focus on increasing competitiveness and developing new products and new markets.