(STAR) By Des Ferriols - The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) expects total remittances from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to reach $16.2 billion in 2008 with labor deployment increasing despite the slowdown in the US economy.

BSP Governor Amando M. Tetangco Jr. told reporters over the weekend that gross OFW inflows would expand by eight percent next year, including remittances that go through informal and non-bank channels.

Remittances that go through banks, on the other hand, are projected to grow at a faster rate of 10 percent to reach $15.7 billion compared to only $14 billion this year.

According to Tetangco, the latest estimates of the BSP also upgraded the full-year projection for 2007 when OFW remittances are expected to increase faster by seven percent.

“Originally, we expected remittances to grow by five percent but based on what we have seen so far, we think total remittances will actually grow by seven percent,” Tetangco said.

At this rate, Tetangco said total remittances are projected to reach $15 billion, about $300 million more than the $14.7 billion total projected earlier in the year.

Remittances that go through banks, on the other hand, are projected to end 2007 at $14.3 billion, slightly over the original projection of $14 billion.

Tetangco said there was an expected pick-up in deployment in 2008 but said that over the medium term, the sustainability of remittances would depend on the availability of manpower.

“The demand is likely to stay, it all depends on how fast and how many we can train to fill up that demand,” Tetangco said.

Labor deployment, however, has been criticized by economist as a “cop-out” as the Arroyo administration opted to train workers for off-shore employment rather than working to create higher-paying local jobs.

A 2005 survey of the National Statistics Office revealed that the country has so far deployed over 1.4 million workers abroad, about 76.6 percent were working in Asian and the rest in Europe, North and South America.

The NSO said 50.3 percent were makes and the rest were females with female OFWs aged 25 to 29 years. The NSO said one in every three (33.1 percent) OFWs was employed as unskilled worker while those who worked as trade workers or trade-related workers comprised 14.5 percent of the total number of OFWs.

In November this year, Tetangco said that based on preliminary data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), the total deployment in October increased by 3.9 percent to 88,058.

Tetangco said this was the fourth consecutive month that the deployment figure was higher compared to the respective year ago level, indicating that future remittances would continue to go up.

Classified by type of worker, the number of deployed land-based workers rose by 10.7 percent to 64,066 in October, while the number of deployed sea-based workers contracted by 10.7 percent to 23,992.

Sea-based workers, according to the POEA, declined due to delays in the workers’ visa issued by host countries and increasing competition from workers from other countries. “Nonetheless, the increase in the deployment of land-based workers in October moderated the year-to-date contraction to only 1.1 percent to reach 915,333,” Tetangco said.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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