By Charissa Luci-Atienza
A lawmaker expressed confidence Wednesday that the total personal remittances of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) will reach at $31 billion this year.
Leyte Rep. Henry Ong, chairman of the House Committee on Financial Intermediaries, made the assessment, as the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas recorded the increasing OFW remittances from Africa, Europe, the Oceania Pacific islands, the United States, Canada, and parts of Asia.
“Considering that monthly OFW money transfers have not gone lower than $2 billion since February 2016 and worldwide, the OFW personal remittances already totaled $26.5 billion from January to October, the $31 billion mark is near certainty. Since the remittances always peak in December, there is even a high probability the $31 billion will be surpassed,” he said.
He noted that last year, the total OFW personal remittances hit $31.288 billion. “So we could have a new record-high this year, but the country must not be complacent in the years ahead. As I have said before, remittances from the Middle East are on the decline,” he said.
Citing the BSP data, Ong said from January to October this year, remittances from Africa jumped 22.7 percent to $113.23 million from $92.3 million.
“Much of what came from Africa, $57.85 million is from Liberia and is sea-based. Many cargo ships are Liberian-registered. But money transfers from Nigeria, the Seychelles, and Egypt were in modestly strong amounts: Nigeria – $8.74 million; Seychelles – $2.01 million; and Egypt – $2.06million,” he said.
He also cited that Europe remittances grew by 8.7 percent to $3.44 billion from $3.16 billion, boosted mainly by earnings of Filipino seafarers whose ships are registered in the Netherlands, Norway, Germany and Cyprus, but with significant amounts also from land-based workers, mostly from OFW professionals–nurses and engineers, some farmhands, and some household service workers.
Quoting the BSP, Ong said remittances from the Pacific island nations of the Oceania region were strong, increasing by 11.5 percent to $647 million from $580.4 million. The bulk came from New Zealand ($199.11 million; up by 88.8 percent) and from the Marshall Islands ($42.80 million; up by 44.4 percent) from sea-based OFWs, he said.
He expressed concern that the transfers from Australia fell by 17.2 percent to $350.59 million from$423.35 million.
According to the BSP, over $10 billion in remittances came from North America-based overseas Filipinos. Transfers from the United States totaled $8.2 billion and posted 6 percent growth and from Canada, $806.36 million and recorded 54.1 percent growth, the BSP said.
Ong also noted that remittances from Panama were $137 million up by 27.3 percent on account of Filipino seamen whose ships are Panamanian-registered. From Saipan, remittances were $20.45 million.
He said five areas in Asia had strong remittance surges so far this year: Taiwan – $475.47 million (47.9 percent); Malaysia – $378.13 million (42.4 percent); South Korea – $274.44 million (21.8 percent); Vietnam – $60.78 million (21.4 percent) and Macau – $101.63 million (20.4 percent).
Ong encouraged OFWs to invest a big chunk of their earnings in high-added value generating small business ventures, interest income-bearing securities, retirement savings, health care insurance, and quality education for their dependents.
The House leader said for the remittances to grow stronger, the Overseas Filipino Bank, a subsidiary of the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP), should have a “much deeper and growing role in the investment decisions of OFWs and their dependents.”
“As to deployment policy, the Philippines should forge OFW bridges with the strong economies of South America, Africa, and Eastern Europe,” Ong said.