MALAYA: Record $14B from OFW remittances

By ANTHONY IAN CRUZ
Malaya
January 3, 2008

REMITTANCES by overseas Filipino workers were expected to reach $14 billion in 2007.

Labor Secretary Arturo Brion said the record flow was due to “greater access by OFWs to remittance centers and their tie-ups with foreign financial institutions.”

As of October, the DOLE said, OFW remittances stood at $11.9 billion, up by 15.2 percent from $10.2 billion during the first 10 months of 2006.

But OFW representatives said they were not rejoicing because “the much ballyhooed feat is rendered meaningless by rising prices.”

Major remittance sources for 2007 were the United States, the United Kingdom, Italy, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Singapore, Japan, and Hong Kong.

Maita Santiago, secretary general of Migrante International, said the rise in total OFW money flows was expected.

“The marked depreciation of the dollar versus the peso compels OFWs to work harder and to send even more dollars. We also cannot discount OFWs continued use of non-formal remittance channels,” said Santiago.

Santiago said Migrante’s own estimate is that OFWs sent home about $21 billion in remittances, but a portion was not captured by official figures because this went through non-formal channels.

“Ironically, the huge OFWs remittances prop up the decrepit Arroyo government,” said Santiago. “OFW remittances most probably helped the country attain a balance of payment surplus (BOP) of about $8.6 billion in 2007 as reported by the BSP.”

In its revised yearend forecast, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas credited strong OFW remittances for the BOP surplus.

“Without hard-earned OFW remittances, Mrs. Arroyo cannot boast of a BOP surplus,” said Santiago.

Norman Uy Carnay, program coordinator at the Hong Kong-based Mission for Migrant Workers, said the figures are “meaningless” to OFWs and their families because of the continued rise in prices of basic goods and services in the country.

Carnay said: “OFWs feel bad that the blood money they send back home, which has recently grown due to the depreciation of the dollar, does not go far. The government has failed to do its part of the bargain which is to ensure that prices go down considering that the President periodically reports lower inflation and purported good economic fundamentals.”

OFWs would have had no problem with the rising peso if prices were also going down, Carnay said.

“But they are not going down, and that is what irks OFWs the most because they are compelled to work double time and take more jobs just so they can send the same amount of money as they have done some years back,” he said.

The Commission on Filipinos Overseas recorded 8.23 million OFWs as of 2006, with the DOLE reporting deployments of more than one million new OFWs in 2007.

OFWs are now found in 190 countries and territories, the DOLE adds.

Bangko Sentral placed total remittances in 2006 at $12.8 billion, or 20 percent higher than in 2005.

According to a paper by UP Economics Prof. Ernesto Pernia, the 2006 figure placed the Philippines in third spot among countries receiving the highest amounts of migrant remittances, after India and Mexico.

In a recent report, the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) placed total OFW remittances for 2006 at $14.6 billion.

The IFAD-IDB report titled “Sending money home: Worldwide remittances to developing countries” ranked the Philippines as the fourth biggest recipient of migrant remittances worldwide.

India was at first place with $24.5 billion, followed by Mexico with $24.2 billion and China, $21 billion.

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