Remittances from Filipino migrant workers coursed through banks rose 19 percent to $12.76 billion in 2006 from $10.69 billion in 2005, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas reported yesterday.
Remittances in December alone jumped 37 percent to $1.32 billion, the highest amount sent in a single month. Monthly totals topped the billion-dollar mark in each of the last eight months of 2006.
The figures reflect “the higher deployment of Filipino workers abroad and to financial institutions’ adoption of innovative ways to improve delivery of financial services, expand their network and enhance their infrastructure to reach a greater number” of clients, said central bank Gov. Amando Tetangco.
The data do not include cash sent by overseas-based Filipinos to relatives through informal, non-bank channels.
Preliminary data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration suggest 1.1 million newly-hired Filipinos went to work abroad last year, up 10.5 percent from 2005, the central bank said.
There are more than eight million Filipinos working overseas, or nearly a 10th of the population.
Demand for Filipino workers “is expected to increase further as the government intensifies its human resource development and training programs for potential workers, improving their competitive advantage over those from other labor-producing countries,” Tetangco said.
The United States, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Italy, Britain, Japan, the United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan were the largest sources of remittances to the Philippines, the statement said.
The central bank said remittances in 2006 topped its target by $500 million. It expects the figure this year to reach $14 billion.
Land-based jobs for Filipinos abroad grew 12 percent to 831,318 while sea-based work rose 5 percent to 260,737.
The central bank said banks and non-bank companies were improving their remittance service to make it faster, safer and more efficient. The increased competition in the remittance business has also helped bring down the cost of remittances.
Filipino migrant workers are crucial to the Philippine economy as their remittances spur consumer spending.
The government, aiming to harness the savings of Filipino migrant workers and their beneficiaries to finance Manila’s huge infrastructure requirement, plans to issue some $1 billion worth of bonds exclusively for them.
The central bank also plans to give “special incentives” to migrant workers and their beneficiaries. These include a zero-maintaining balance for deposits and lower interest on loans. Some banks now offer specialized investment products and services to migrant workers.
The Philippines started large-scale exports of construction workers and seamen in the 1970s amid a building boom in the oil-soaked Middle East. –Eileen A. Mencias,Manila Standard with AFP