MANILA, August 8, 2005
 (STAR) By Donnabelle L. Gatdula - The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) supports the idea of putting up a bank that would cater to the needs of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

Monetary Board member Vicente Valdepenas urged the OFW groups that intend to enter into a banking business to prepare all the necessary requirements.

"There were some interested parties from OFW groups that approached us two years ago but they never came back maybe they lack capital. But there maybe some banks that are now being sold right now, all you have to do is ask the BSP’s Supervision and Examination Sector (SES) of the names of these banks for sale and put up the needed money (capital). You should work on it if you want a bank dedicated for remittance operations," Valdepeñas said.

The MB official also welcomed the idea of investing a portion of the P8 billion Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) fund to the Philippine National Bank (PNB).

"If they could get a group to talk to Labor Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas and the OWWA on how the OWWA Fund could be mobilized. It is an interesting idea but they should first be pre-qualified to bid," Valdepeñas said.

Filipino Migrant Workers Group president Francisco Aguilar Jr., said OFWs’ possible participation in the PNB bidding could be done only with the help of the Arroyo administration.

"There is a slim chance for us to do this although the concept is good, without the political will of Mrs. Arroyo to help the migrant workers," he said.

Being a former OFW, Aguilar, had took the initiative to put up a bank to service OFW remittances.

"We have acquired a rural bank from Parang, Maguindanao. We now call it New Settlers Bank," he said.

Aguilar said his bank is currently developing a remittance system that could possibly lower the cost of sending money to the Philippines from abroad by 30 percent.

Aguilar said their bank, which will initially focus on Middle East market, will launch the said special remittance system/product next month.

BSP survey shows that as of May 2005, remittance costs ranged from $2.31 to $5.78 per transaction in Hong Kong; $6 to $14 in the United States; and $1.83 to $20.15 in London.

As of May 2005, OFW remittances reached $4 billion and are expected to further expand to $12 billion by end-2005 from last year’s $8.4 billion. Of this amount, 80 percent went through formal channels (banks, remittance centers, door-to-door delivery) and about 19.9 percent is being channeled to informal means (i.e. ask co-workers coming home to bring the remittance to his family).

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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