Cash remittances by Filipino migrant workers worldwide could reach a record high this year despite a steep fall in money transfers from the Middle East.
A Philippines congressman, Leyte Rep. Henry Ong, said on Thursday that remittances remained on track to reach $31 billion this year.
Figures from the Philippines Central Bank (BSP) show an increase in money transfers from Africa, Europe, the Pacific islands, the US, Canada, and parts of Asia.
“Personal remittances from Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) already total $26.5 billion from January to October, so the $31 billion mark is almost certain,” Ong, chairman of the House Committee on Financial Intermediaries, said in a statement sent to Arab News.
Since money transfers usually peak in December, it is likely the $31 billion figure will be exceeded, he said.
In 2017, money transfers from migrant workers totaled $31.29 billion. “So we could have a new record high this year, but the country must not be complacent in the years ahead,” Ong said.
While transfers from most areas of the world rose, remittances from migrant workers in the Middle East fell by $1.03 billion in the first 10 months of 2018. Ong said that the government should revise its migrant worker strategy following the decline in Middle East transfers.
Filipino migrants should be brought home or redeployed to other countries to minimize the Philippines’ dependence on the economic fortunes of the Middle East.
“OFWs pump more funds into the Philippines economy than foreign investors,” Ong said.
Cash remittances from the Middle East from January to October stood at $5.43 billion, down from $6.46 billion in 2017. Transfers from Saudi Arabia were down 11.1 percent, while remittances from Kuwait fell by 18.2 percent. In Bahrain, transfers were down by 9.6 percent, and in the UAE by 11.1 percent.
Ong called on economic planners to forge new bilateral migrant workers’ agreements with the emerging economies of Africa, South America, and eastern and northern Europe.
“These regions are where economic growth is happening and where migrant workers should be providing much-needed professional and technical manpower,” he said.
Of the estimated 2.3 million Filipino migrant workers, about half work in the Middle East, with Saudi Arabia the leading destination.
BSP figures show that from January to October this year, remittances from Africa totaled $113.23 million, up from $92.3 million during the same period in 2017.
Remittances from Europe rose by 8.7 percent to $3.44 billion from $3.16 billion, boosted mainly by the earnings of Filipino seamen. Significant amounts also came from nurses and engineers, farm laborers and household helpers.
Remittances from the Pacific island nations grew by 11.5 percent to $647 million. Much of that came from New Zealand ($199.11 million; up by 88 percent).
Transfers from Australia fell by 17.2 percent to $350.59 million.
Over $10 billion in remittances came Filipinos working in North America. Transfers from the US totaled $8.2 billion, a 6 percent rise, while transfers from Canada rose to $806.36 million, a 54.1 percent jump.
Transfers also surged from five countries in Asia: 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).