Exports hit record high
by Antonio Siegfrid O. Alegado
Cagayan de Oro City (11 November) -- Strong demand for semiconductor and electronics drove Philippine merchandise exports to a new record high in terms of value in September and rise at the fastest pace since at least 1981, cementing expectations that the sector will overshoot official targets for the year.
The sector's year-on-year growth of 46.1% that month was its best performance since at least 1981, according to available data from the National Statistics Office (NSO).
Shipments for September were worth $5.31 billion, breaking an earlier record hit in August. Exports totaled $4.76 billion in August and $3.6 billion in September 2009.
Aggregate merchandise exports rose 38.5% to $38.30 billion in the nine months to September from the $27.65 billion posted in the same period last year.
The latest cumulative tally already accounted for 89% of the full-year export target of $43.1 billion, equivalent to a 15% growth on an annual basis.
Electronics remained as the country's top export product with sales reaching $3.48 billion, 54.6% higher from year-ago earnings of $2.25 billion.
The sector, which got support from brisk semiconductor shipments, accounted for 65.5% of total sales for the month.
The better-than-expected results bolstered market optimism despite concerns over a strengthening peso.
"We can exceed our target of 25%. Because of the [industry's] good showing, we end up with higher-than-expected [export growth] bringing us back to 2007 levels," Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc. (Philexport) President Sergio R. Ortiz-Luis, Jr. said in a telephone interview.
Mr. Ortiz-Luis, Jr., however, pointed out that the September data did not yet reflect the adverse impact of a strengthening peso, which breached the P42-to-the-dollar territory this month.
Yesterday marked the peso's third day of decline from P42 levels, closing P43.40 to the dollar from P43.37 on Tuesday.
Despite the peso's strength, the Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines, Inc. (SEIPI) and Philexport are maintaining their targets at 25%-30% and 20%-25%, respectively, for now.
SEIPI President Ernesto B. Santiago said: "We're already looking at over 30% [growth] by the end of the year even with the softening in the next months [after September]."
The fast-rising peso "affects the industry, but most companies are now using the dollar as a functional currency [to cope with the changes]," he said.
The government was also "happy" with the sector's performance, attributing the increase to continued global economic growth. In a telephone interview, National Economic and Development Authority Deputy Director-General Augusto B. Santos said he was "certain" that the country's exports will hit pre-crisis levels. "The recovery of the exports [industry] is an indication of global economic recovery," he added.
University of the Philippines economist Solita Collas-Monsod was of the same view, saying: "This just means that the world demand is increasing and the global economic crisis is now out of the way."
While noting that the government remains watchful of the peso, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Cayetano W. Paderanga, Jr. said the industry need not worry as "our competitors are also experiencing appreciation of [their respective] currencies." (PhilExport) [top]