Businessmen may feel uncertain about it, but the government is confident that the country’s export performance will rebound within the latter months, following a 6-percent slowdown in the first quarter, according to a senior trade official.
Senen M. Perlada, director of the Department of Trade and Industry’s (DTI) Export Marketing Bureau, said commodity exports will post better figures as soon as the second quarter of the year, mainly due to the country’s upbeat business climate, and the resounding opinion that exports will recover in the next months.
Perlada said electronics will persist to carry the load for merchandise exports. On the other hand, nonelectronics is seen performing better in the second quarter.
“We forecast electronics would continue on its growth trend, while nonelectronics will start to recover from its double-digit decline. This is based in business expectations survey of the BSP [Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas], which now includes forecast for the second quarter for business in general, exporters and importers [alike],” Perlada told reporters.
Figures obtained from the Philippine Statistics Authority reported a 6-percent drop in commodity exports in the year’s opener. Merchandise goods traded outbound slipped to $15.75 billion in the January-to-March stretch from $16.76 billion during the same period last year.
Perlada’s confidence, however, was not shared by local exporters.
Sergio R. Ortiz-Luis Jr., president of the Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc., said uncertainties in global trade and the stiffer domestic regulation on contractualization is going to hinder export performance from recovering.
He said exporters have to deal with these two issues, and curbing the impact of a trade tension and a new law is just too difficult of a task.
In a May interview with the BusinessMirror, Ortiz-Luis explained exporters had to temper plans of enlarging their work force due to the executive order prohibiting fixed-term employment. The EO was signed by President Duterte as his compliance to a campaign promise to ban contractual hiring.
“Well, exports went down because of many reasons. Among them is that agriculture went down because they had a supply problem. Second, and [from what] I understand, a lot of our exporters, especially in handicrafts, held off from hiring people and expanding [operations] because of the issue on contractualization,” Ortiz-Luis, in mixed English and Filipino, said.
“And on the global level, there is an instability to a certain degree. We cannot really say if we will bounce back as usual, but we are hoping that our exports will rebound,” he added.
The government is looking to grow exports by 9 percent this year, well below the revised 10.17-percent expansion last year.
To improve this year will also be crucial, as the government is aiming to hit $122 billion—the lower end of a target range that goes as high as $131 billion—in export receipts by 2022. Electronics exports will play a critical role in the accomplishment of this ambitious objective, as it contributed 52 percent, or $32.7 billion, of the $62.87 billion of commodity exports in the previous year.
Electronics exporters, on the other hand, are determined to overcome the escalating trade conflict between superpower economies and still grow by 6 percent this year. Should the target be hit, the industry will now amount to around $34.5 billion to $36 billion.