MANILA, May 8 (Xinhua) -- The Philippines' total merchandise trade grew by 3.5 percent to 14.89 billion U.S. dollars in March 2019 from 14.39 billion U.S. dollars in March 2018, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said on Wednesday.
Of the total external trade, the PSA said 5.88 billion U.S. dollars or 39.5 percent were exported goods and 9.01 billion U.S. dollars or 60.5 percent were imported goods.
Furthermore, the PSA said the country's balance of trade in goods (BoT-G) increased to a 3.14 billion U.S. dollars deficit in March 2019, from 2.34 billion U.S. dollars deficit in March 2018.
"This is the fourth month of decline in export receipts, dragged by a dip in sales of electronics and petroleum products," the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said.
The NEDA urged local producers to continue to diversify products and earnestly look for new markets, especially abroad, to ratchet up Philippine exports.
"To drive up exports, we are encouraging exporters to continue to diversify products to expand their markets," Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said.
Pernia said that in terms of exports to major trading partners in March, receipts from ASEAN countries grew by 2.7 percent, supported by stronger out-turns in shipments to Malaysia, Vietnam, and Indonesia.
On the other hand, he said exports to East Asia, the United States, and the EU declined by 0.4 percent, 3.1 percent, and 17.2 percent, respectively.
"To put the Philippines in a more competitive stance, it is crucial to open up domestic sectors to foreign participation through the proposed amendments to the Foreign Investment Act, Retail Trade Act, and Public Services Act," Pernia said.
"This will help attract multinational firms to invest and set up their manufacturing operations in the country," he said, adding that the resulting expanded local production would help cater to the needs of both domestic and external markets.