3,568 OFWs DEPLOYED IN 1st 15 DAYS OF 2004

MANILA,  January 21, 2004 (STAR) By Mayen Jaymalin - The number of Filipino workers deployed overseas has increased with their remittances hitting over $6 billion last year, labor officials said yesterday.

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) announced there has been a dramatic growth in the hiring of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in various countries in the first two weeks of January.

"We have now recorded an average daily deployment (of) 3,568 or 14 percent higher than the number of workers leaving for employment abroad during the same period a year ago," POEA chief Rosalinda Baldoz said.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) also reported that the amount of money remitted back home by overseas workers rose 4.6 percent. Remittances hit $6.9 billion last year compared to $6.6 billion in 2002, DOLE said in a statement.

Baldoz noted the POEA has recorded a total deployment of 46,381 OFWs from Jan. 1 to 13. The figure was almost 6,000 more than the 40,393 Filipinos hired last year.

Land-based workers posted 24.2 percent growth to 40,721 from 32,797 last year while deployment of sea-based workers went down from 7,595 to 5,660.

Baldoz said the deployment of Filipino seafarers abroad is expected to increase in the coming weeks to five percent despite the competition from other labor exporting countries.

Labor officials said that market prospects for sea-based deployment is promising considering that 12 new cruise ships serving the North American market will start operations this year.

Based on POEA records, a total of 214,691 seafarers were deployed in 2003 or 2.4 percent higher than the 209,593 number of seamen deployed in 2002.

Labor officials said the overseas labor market suffered a decline due to the effects of the US-Iraq war, fears of terrorist threats and the outbreak of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

The drop in overseas hiring last year cited the factors which resulted in about five percent reduction of deployment. Only 849,998 OFWs were deployed last year, labor officials said.

However, the remittances continue to increase because the depreciation of the Philippine peso made it more attractive for overseas workers to send money back to their families.

There are more than five million Filipinos working overseas and the money they send back to their relatives at home is a major source of foreign exchange. With AFP

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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