TUCP sees further drop in OFW remittances

Published by rudy Date posted on April 6, 2009

MANILA, Philippines – The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) warned yesterday of deeper economic difficulty as a growing number of Filipino workers are getting laid off from their jobs abroad.

“Worried about the security of their jobs and income, many OFWs have suspended large acquisitions – of new homes, cars, even costly home appliances,” TUCP secretary-general Ernesto Herrera said.

Herrera said the decision of many OFWs to boost savings and spend less due to the economic turmoil could appear to be a positive development.

But from a bigger perspective, Herrera warned the cut in spending “could send the local economy into a deeper slump.”

With OFWs spending less, dollar remittances from abroad could fall by five to 10 percent this year, Herrera said.

According to Herrera, many OFWs are unsure if they could keep their jobs abroad in wake of the global economic slump.

Herrera said he found it “incredible” that government reported only a few thousand OFWs displaced since the worsening of global economic conditions in the last quarter of 2008.

“Frankly, we doubt that government has an adequate system in place to accurately monitor the OFW job losses abroad. It cannot even correctly count the job losses here at home,” he said.

The former senator added the government claims do not include OFWs who lost their jobs because their foreign employers did not renew their contracts.

“Technically, these OFWs were not laid off. But the truth is, they still lost gainful employment. And if not for the lingering crisis, under normal conditions, their job contracts would have been renewed right away,” he said.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said over 6,000 OFWs lost their jobs since October 2008 due to the prevailing global economic crisis.

The National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC), on the other hand, said over 75,000 Filipinos have found new jobs through President Arroyo’s emergency employment program.

NAPC Secretary Domingo Panganiban said the number of unemployed that have landed jobs under the Comprehensive Livelihood and Emergency Employment Program (CLEEP) has increased from 64,000 workers in late February to 75,016 workers as of March this year.

Panganiban said the government’s total budget outlay for the emergency jobs effort has also seen a significant increase as more national agencies have started implementing various projects under the nationwide program.

“Most of the recent financial allocations have come from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), led by Secretary Lito Atienza, and the Department of Labor and Employment, which is headed by Secretary Marianito Roque,” Panganiban said.

Herrera, meanwhile, said the crisis should compel the Philippines to make arrangements with other leading remittance-receiving countries, such as India, Mexico, China and Russia, and push for lower global money transfer charges.

He said OFWs and their families here could save up to $1.1 billion, or P52.8 billion, annually if current money transfer fees that average 13.5 percent per transaction are cut in half.

In 2008, remittances from OFWs coursed through banks rose by 13.7 percent to $16.4 billion, from $14.45 billion in 2007, according to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).

The BSP said remittances from OFWs coursed through banks declined by one-tenth of one percent to $1.260 billion in January as against $1.264 billion in the same month in 2008, suggesting a possible downtrend in the months ahead, after a sustained climb over an extended period. –-Mayen Jaymalin with Paolo Romero, Philippine Star

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