March OFW remittances rose despite weakening Mideast job market
MANILA, Philippines–Dollars sent home by expatriate Filipinos rose in March, thanks to strong remittances from areas outside the Middle East which, in turn, helped reverse the sharp decline reported in the same period last year, the central bank said on Wednesday.
In a statement, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said personal remittances from Filipinos working or based abroad increased by 6.4 percent year-on-year to $2.8 billion in March 2019, from $2.6 billion in March 2018.
This brought the total remittances for the first quarter of 2019 to $8.1 billion, higher by 3.7 percent compared to the $7.8 billion posted in the same period last year, BSP Governor Benjamin Diokno said.
“The continued growth in personal remittances during the first three months of 2019 was driven by steady remittance inflows from land-based overseas Filipino workers with work contracts of one year or more, which aggregated to $6.2 billion, and compensation of sea-based workers and land-based workers with short-term contracts, which totaled $1.7 billion,” he explained.
ING Bank senior economist Nicholas Mapa said the positive year-to-date growth has been achieved despite the double digit decline in one of the Philippines’ traditional sources of remittances: the Middle East.
“For years, analysts had warned of the projected ‘Saudization’ with Filipinos seem to be displaced by locals and it appears that the day is already here,” he said in a statement to the press. “Remittance flows have stalled in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE while flows from the United States have increased.”
“Despite the setback from remittance flows from the Middle East, OFWs appear to still find a way to send home funds to help augment domestic incomes,” Mapa said.
Meanwhile, cash remittances from abroad coursed through banks — which counts only wages sent home by expatriate workers, and excludes funds sent home by non-OFW Filipinos — in March 2019 amounted to $2.5 billion, up by 6.6 percent year-on-year from the $2.4 billion recorded in March 2018.
Of the 6.6 percent growth in March 2019, 2.0, 1.7 and 1.2 percentage points were contributed by the US, Singapore and the United Kingdom, respectively.
On a cumulative basis, cash remittances for the first quarter rose to $7.3 billion, 4.2 percent higher than the first quarter 2018 level of $7 billion. This growth was buoyed by the increase in remittances from both land-based ($5.71 billion) and sea-based ($1.58 billion) workers, which rose by 2.5 percent and 10.8 percent, respectively.
By country source, the US registered the highest share of overall remittances for the period at 35.1 percent. It was followed by Saudi Arabia, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, the UK, Japan, Canada, Qatar, Hong Kong and Kuwait. The combined remittances from these countries accounted for almost 78 percent of total cash remittances from January to March 2019. (Editor: Jonathan P. Vicente)
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