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Truck ban, pests threaten Philippine exports in 2nd half of 2014

MANILA, July 10 (Xinhua) -- The truck ban imposed by the Manila city government would make it difficult for Philippine exports to grow by at least 10 percent in the second half of the year, experts said Thursday.

The National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) also warned that a prolonged dry spell coupled with the spread of coconut scale insects could slow down shipments of agro-based products in the July to December period.

Philippine export revenues in the second half of 2013 rose by 12 percent year on year.

"I am not optimistic that we can maintain double-digit growth in the second half primarily because of the city of Manila's truck ban which is wreaking havoc on both importers and exporters," said University of Asia and the Pacific's (UA&P) economist Victor Abola.

Cid Terosa, vice dean of the University's School of Economics, said port congestion in Manila is compounding the problem with the truck ban.

"Inbound shipments of both consumer and producer goods have been slowed down by port congestion and the truck ban," said Terosa.

The city government implemented the truck ban in the country's capital in February. Businessmen had earlier warned that the ban, which was meant to decongest Manila roads, would have dire economic consequences.

Experts said the contraction in earnings from electronic products in May reflect the problems posed by the truck ban to local producers. Figures from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that earnings from electronic products in May declined by 1.6 percent on year to 2.04 billion U.S. dollars on the back of an 18-percent drop in receipts from semiconductors.

To hit the 69 billion U.S. dollars revenue target for 2014, NEDA Deputy Director-General Emmanuel Esguerra said policies should remain "supportive" of higher exports growth.

Esguerra said immediate attention should be given to Philippine agriculture, particularly the coconut sector. The country is the world's top exporter of coconut oil.

"In the short-term, efforts must be intensified to help areas vulnerable to the adverse impact of a prolonged dry spell. Measures to contain the spread of the coconut scale insect must also be stepped up," said Esguerra in a statement.

Shipments of agro-based products, particularly coconut products, contributed significantly to export growth in May. Receipts from coconut products alone posted a significant hike of 31.1 percent during the period.

To ensure the sustainability of manufacturing exports, Esguerra said the government must intensify the Industry Roadmapping project and to address the high cost of power.

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