Data from the National Statistics Office (NSO) showed that compared to the previous month, the value of inward shipments of capital goods and consumer goods increased significantly by 20.7 percent and 18.6 percent, respectively. Import payments of capital goods were buoyed by land transport equipment (56.5%), telecommunication equipment and electrical machineries (38.2%), office and electronic data processing (EDP) machine(21.9%), and power generating and specialized machines (3.9%).
Meanwhile, the increase in imports of telecommunication equipment and electrical machinery from the previous month coupled with the decline in materials/accessories for the manufacture of electronic equipment made the former the country's top import commodity.
The month-on-month increase in consumer goods was broadly supported by both durable and non-durable goods which improved by 7.2 percent and 25.5 percent, respectively. Imports of miscellaneous durable manufactures (70.7%), fish and fish preparation (77.9%), beverages and tobacco (49.7%), other food and live animals (33.3%), rice (32.7%), and articles of apparel and accessories (28.2%)posted remarkable month-on-month growth rates.
In a memorandum to President Arroyo, Recto however added that "despite the positive performance in March, the negative effects of the global financial crisis continued to wear down the local appetite for foreign goods". The NSO announced that the country's merchandise imports fell by 36.2 percent year-on-year.
"But the country's imports statistics compared reasonably well with that of our Asian neighbors. Japan's imports for March year-on-year dropped by 36.6 percent while imports in Korea and Thailand fell by 36 percent and 29.7 percent, respectively," said Recto, who is also director-general of the National Economic and Development Authority.
Cumulatively, payments for imported goods reached only US$9.6 billion in the first quarter of 2009 which is a 34.3-percent decline from the same period last year. The trade deficit, on the other hand, reached US$1.7 billion for the first three months of the year, about US$394 million less than what was accounted for in the same period last year.
On the downside, major commodity groups continued to post negative growth rates for at least five straight months led by the double-digit declines in capital goods (-34.9%), raw materials and intermediate goods (-29.9%), and mineral fuels, lubricants and related materials (-60.1%).
Raw materials and intermediate goods and mineral fuels and lubricants continued to contract, registering 0.3 percent and 3.5 percent decline vis-à-vis February 2009.
The United States remains the biggest source of imports in March this year with a 12.2-percent share, followed by Japan with 11.5-percent share. Other major sources of imports were People's Republic of China (9.1%), Singapore (8.0%) and Taiwan (7.4%).