MANILA, Dec 19 (Reuters) - The Philippines' electronics exports will likely increase 5-6 percent next year, supported by robust demand for gadgets and internet-connected equipment, a group representing the country's key semiconductor industry said on Monday.
For 2016, the Semiconductor and Electronic Industries in the Philippines Inc (SEIPI) has forecast an increase of 6 percent.
Danilo Lachica, SEIPI president, said 2017's "modest" anticipated gains will be driven by components, electronic data processing, telecommunications, automotive sectors, cyber security, self-driving cars and the general trend toward a digital society.
Electronics are the Philippines' top export item, and in October accounted for 52 percent of export revenue, according to the Philippine Statistics Agency. So the relatively firm outlook for 2017 bodes well for overall economic growth.
But President Rodrigo Duterte's comments about cutting ties with Washington posed some risks, Lachica said. He said 12 percent of the industry's exports go to the United States.
While the industry supports Duterte's move to expand commercial ties with other countries, Lachica said "it should not be at the expense of cutting ties with the U.S."
On Friday, Duterte told the U.S. "we do not need you", and that it should "prepare to leave" the Philippines.
SEIPI, comprising 270 semiconductors and electronics manufacturers including units of Toshiba and Texas Instruments employing more than two million workers, wants to grow its business with the U.S., Lachica said.
The Philippine central bank expects total exports to contract 3 percent this year, due to sluggish global demand, but expand 2 percent next year.
Reporting by Karen Lema and Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Richard Borsuk