The National Economic and Development Authority recorded a 22.7-percent growth in trade March this year, following notable progress in exports and imports.

NEDA-attached agency Philippine Statistics Authority reported that total trade grew to USD13.5 billion, with imports and exports growing 24 percent and 21 percent, respectively.

“Philippine trade during the first quarter of this year has been robust, growing a solid 18.5 percent. We are really optimistic that we can sustain this momentum in the coming months,” said NEDA Officer-in-Charge and Undersecretary Rolando G. Tungpalan.

This brings the first quarter growth of imports to 18.6 percent and exports to 18.3 percent in 2017.

Exports in March recorded earnings of USD5.6 billion, mainly driven by sales of manufactured goods at 16.5-percent growth, total agro-based products at 33.6-percent growth, and mineral products at 94.2-percent growth.

In terms of major markets, exports have been supported by the sharp increase in receipts from Hong Kong (38.9 percent), China (38.9 percent), South Korea (7.3 percent), Taiwan (17.5 percent), US (20.4 percent), and EU (56.2 percent).

In the same period, imports payments rose to USD7.9 billion. This was led by purchases of capital goods, raw materials and intermediate goods, mineral fuels and lubricants, and consumer goods.

In terms of trade growth in March 2017, the Philippines has overtaken Indonesia’s 20.9 percent, Malaysia’s 20.4 percent, Vietnam’s 20.2 percent, and Thailand’s 13.8 percent.

“These figures support our view that the Philippines will be the fastest-growing economy among the ASEAN-5 this year,” said Tungpalan.

This could be anchored on recovering external demand and strong domestic consumption and investment activities.

“We aim to follow-through by forging stronger connections with our ASEAN neighbors as merchandise trade with them comprises a substantial share of 21.9 percent of our country’s total trade in the first quarter,” Tungpalan added.

He also pushed for innovation-led developments and noted that in order to fully leverage on the region’s growth, micro, small, and medium enterprises must be integrated in global value chains.