MANILA, November 16, 2004 (STAR) By Des Ferriols - Remittances from overseas Filipino workers went up by 8.7 percent to $6.2 billion in the first nine months of the year from $5.7 billion a year ago as more and more Filipinos are leaving the country for better employment abroad, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) reported yesterday.

The BSP said the number of highly-skilled Filipino workers continued to rise this year, prompting government officials to express confidence that this year’s OFW remittances may surpass the 2004 target.

Dollar inflows from OFWs are expected to grow by six percent this year.

BSP Governor Rafael B. Buenaventura said the country was deploying more workers than originally expected and their remittances were providing the cushion against spiraling oil prices.

"Without OFW remittances, we won’t have the cushion we have now in our reserves," Buenaventura said.

According to Buenaventura, remittances were also boosted by commercial banks that have been moving aggressively into the remittance business, attracting OFWs away from informal channels.

Buenaventura said the bulk of remittances still came from Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Italy, the US, UK, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (UAE).

In the first three quarters, Buenaventura said OFW remittances accounted for over 16 percent of the country’s current account receipts and over 11 percent of gross domestic product.

"We really depend on these remittances," Buenaventura pointed out.

Despite the growing competition from other labor-exporting countries, the BSP said it expected the demand for Filipino workers to continue because of their skills, easy trainability and high level of professionalism.

The BSP initially reported a slowdown in dollar remittances as international institutions clamped down on the global flow of terrorist funds.

The BSP said the deployment of land-based workers went up by 3.1 percent to 519,785 workers in the first nine months, mostly highly-paid professionals and technical workers, service staff and skilled production workers.

On the other hand, the number of deployed sea-based workers continue to climb, rising by 2.7 percent to 168,030 workers during the first nine months of the year.

By country of destination, the BSP said the bulk of Filipino workers were deployed in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong, Japan and Italy.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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