MANILA - (UPDATE) The Philippines posted a record $3.78-billion trade deficit in November, as imports grew while exports rose at a slower pace, official data released on Wednesday showed.
Exports grew 1.6 percent to $4.96 billion in November 2017 from the same period in 2016. Imports rose 18.5 percent to $8.74 billion during the same comparable period, the Philippine Statistics Authority said.
The trade deficit in the 11-month period hit a record $25.7 billion.
Iron, steel, mineral fuels and telecommunication equipment were the top gainers in imports in November, PSA data showed.
The slower annual rise in exports was due to a decline in the shipments of machinery and transport equipment and other manufactured goods, which offset the gains in electronic products, cathodes and gold, data showed.
Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Deputy Governor Diwa Guinigundo said that while the trade deficit can negatively impact the foreign exchange rate, a weaker peso was not necessarily bad.
"We say a depreciating currency actually results in greater competitiveness of the currency relative to other countries," Guinigundo said.
The peso closed at P50.38 to the dollar on Wednesday from P50.29 on Tuesday. Analysts had predicted the peso's decline this year with the government's P8-trillion infrastructure program expected to drive the importation of capital goods.
Guinigundo added that the Philippines could accommodate further movements in the exchange rate without seeing higher inflation down the road
China was the Philippines' largest source of imports in November 2017, accounting for 19.4 percent of the total. Import payments to China for the month was at $1.69 billion, up 14 percent from the same period in 2016.
Japan was the second largest import source, followed by South Korea, Thailand and the US, data showed.
Hong Kong was the Philippines largest export market in November 2017, accounting for 15.4 percent of total exports and with an estimated value of $765.95 million.
Japan was the second largest export market, followed by the US and China, the PSA said. -- with a report from Michelle Ong, ABS-CBN News and Reuters