MANILA, MARCH 15, 2008
(STAR) By Des Ferriols - Remittances from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) reached $1.3 billion in January, a double-digit increase of 15 percent from a year ago level.

Data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) showed that remittances through banks have been surpassing the $1-billion mark since May 2006.

According to the BSP, the increase in OFW remittances in January resulted from the acceleration in the deployment of Filipinos abroad after the slowdown recorded at the end of 2006 and the early part of 2007.

BSP Governor Amando M. Tetangco Jr. said that based on a report from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), the total number of overseas workers grew by 12.4 percent in January from a year ago level.

Classified by type of worker, Tetangco said the number of deployed land-based workers increased by 12.3 percent to 88,775 while the number of sea-based workers rose by 13.3 percent to 19,804.

Tetangco said remittances came mostly from the US, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Canada, Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Tetangco said the January number indicated that the momentum was sustained from last year when total inflows from OFWs surged by 13.2 percent annually and reached $14.4 billion, exceeding the $14.3-billion projection as the deployment of workers abroad increased throughout the year.

The BSP said it expected total remittances from overseas Filipinos to reach $16.2 billion in 2008 with labor deployment increasing despite the slowdown in the US economy.

According to Tetangco, 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 from only $14 billion last year.

Remittances have been the powerhouse behind the country’s robust growth in 2007 and despite the excess liquidity created by strong foreign exchange inflows, monetary officials said these remittances have been funding domestic consumption.

At this level, Tetangco said OF remittances accounted for the bulk of the net factor income from abroad and about 10 percent of nominal gross domestic product (GDP) in 2007.

Tetangco said robust remittance flows in 2007 was due to continued demand abroad for Filipino workers and enhanced remittance services provided by banks and non-bank remittance agents.

According to Tetangco, the employment prospects for overseas workers in the near term remained favorable following indications of continued demand from labor-importing countries (such as Canada, Australia, Middle East, South Korea, and Taiwan).

Employment opportunities were identified in the sectors of construction, information technology, engineering, architecture, and hotel/restaurant service.

Tetangco added that the significant rise in remittances in 2007 also resulted from the increased presence of commercial banks and local money transfer agents in countries with high concentration of Filipino workers.

“In particular, banks increased the number of remittance centers abroad, including tie-ups with their foreign counterparts, which in turn facilitated the transfer of remittances to beneficiaries,” he said.

According to Tetangco, remittance flows are expected to get a further boost from the newly-signed agreements between a local money transfer company and two telecommunication service providers aimed at providing overseas Filipinos with convenient and affordable remittance transfers with value added services through the use of mobile communications.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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