MANILA – Philippine merchandise exports increased by 2.1 percent in March following three consecutive months of decline since December 2014, according to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

The Philippine Statistics Authority reported that the total revenue from Philippine exports reached US$5.4 billion in March 2015 from US$5.3 billion in the same period last year.

“Increased sales in manufacture and mineral products kept growth afloat in March, counteracting the declines in total agro-based and petroleum products,” said Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan.

Among selected economies in the East and Southeast Asian region, only the Philippines and Vietnam recorded positive growth in March while others posted negative export growth outturns.

“Considering that exports have been declining since December 2014, the performance of the country’s exports for March 2015 is a welcome development as exports are starting to revert back to positive territory,” the Cabinet official said.

“Moving forward, growth in exports will likely be driven by favorable economic environment in the United States, and in part supported by cheap oil prices and accommodative monetary policy in the European Union,” added Balisacan, who is also NEDA Director-General.

Overseas sales of manufactured goods, which accounted for 84.4 percent of total exports, rose by 2.8 percent in March 2015. It was mainly supported by increased revenues from electronic products, machinery & transport equipment, chemicals and garments.

Similarly, exports of mineral products increased year-on-year by 20.8 percent in March 2015 to US$335.2 million from US$277.5 million in March 2014. The double-digit growth was mainly propelled by higher earnings from the exports of copper metal, gold and other mineral products.

Despite the recovery of exports in the March 2015, the NEDA chief stressed the need to actively pursue and continue current initiatives of strengthening the capacity of various industries to be resilient against calamities and extreme weather conditions.

These initiatives include Climate Smart Agriculture for the agriculture sector, the Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards (NOAH), and the establishment of agro-meteorological stations in highly vulnerable areas, among others.

“Over the the near-term, production disruptions from unpredictable weather patterns remain one of the the biggest risks in attaining the country’s export targets, particularly in the agro-based products,” said Balisacan.

He clarified that although agro-based commodities only account for less than 10 percent of the country’s export revenues, these are very significant in terms of the agriculture sector’s employment contribution as well as its linkages with industry and services sectors.

“Over the medium term, infrastructure development as a means to support agriculture production must be prioritized in order to improve the competitiveness of the sector,” said Balisacan.