(STAR) By Des Ferriols - Remittances from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) surged by 15.5 percent to $13.7 billion during the first 10 months of this year from a year ago level, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) reported yesterday.

For October alone, inflows hit $1.4 billion, the second highest monthly inflow since June this year when it reached $1.45 billion.

The BSP said that the October remittance level was 3.3 percent higher compared with last year’s level and by 7.6 percent from a month ago level.

The October pick-up was seen as the beginning of the seasonal rise in remittances from overseas Filipinos who tended to send more money to their families in time for the holiday season.

BSP Governor Amando M. Tetangco Jr. said the October remittances indicated the underlying resilience of foreign exchange inflows being generated by Filipino laborers abroad.

Tetangco said the October inflow was the second highest monthly inflow since the BSP started recording OF remittances in its foreign exchange statistical monitoring system.

The BSP cited preliminary data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) which indicated that deployment in the first 10 months of the year rose by 25.5 percent to 1,115,199 from 888,339 last year.

“While there could be a slowdown in the rate of deployment as a result of the global financial strains, this could be offset by other employment opportunities in countries that have skills shortage,” Tetangco said.

According to Tetangco, there were such shortage in countries like Canada, some Middle Eastern countries and more recently, South Australia.

But Tetangco said that they expect remittances to slow down in 2009 but ruled out the possibility of a decline as labor deployment continued to increase.

Global economies have started to decelerate this early but Tetangco said that all statistical indicators still show a sustained increase in OF remittances, at least this year.

“We’re expecting that there would be some effect [of the global slowdown] but we don’t think there will be a decline in the amount,” he said. “There might be some deceleration in growth rate but no decline in the amount of actual remittances.”

Tetangco said data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) still indicated a consistent increase in the deployment of newly-hired workers for overseas placements.

“There are workers coming home, to be sure but there are also workers being deployed so the actual number of deployed workers does not actually increase significantly,” he said.

What has significantly changed, according to Tetangco, was the quality of workers being sent abroad.

“A lot more skilled workers are going for jobs abroad, and the number of unskilled workers like domestic helpers is actually declining,” Tetangco said. “These skilled workers have better jobs so they remit more.”

Last year, the BSP said overseas Filipinos sent a total of $1.139 billion in September and the cumulative total was recorded at $10.477 billion in January to September 2007.

“Robust remittance flows have been shored up by strong overseas demand for Filipino skills,” said Tetangco. He said these inflows have remained the source of strength for the economy amid problematic external environment.

The BSP recorded a decline in remittances in August but the BSP said this was caused by the cautionary stance that overseas Filipinos took as world financial markets reeled from the effects of high oil prices, high inflation and the beginnings of the financial meltdown in the US.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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