Remittances still rising but worker deployments drop

Published by rudy Date posted on May 17, 2011

THE money sent home by the nearly 10 million Filipinos working and living abroad went up in March despite the unrest in the Middle East and North Africa and the earthquake and killer tsunami in Japan, the central bank said Monday.

They remitted $1.61 billion through the banking channels that month, which was 4.1 percent higher than the $1.55 billion they sent home a year ago, the Bangko Sentral said.

It made the statement even as the number of Filipinos leaving for work abroad declined in the quarter to March, according to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration.

The agency said the number of Filipinos leaving for work in the period dipped by about 15,000, but Vice President Jejomar Binay, the presidential adviser on Filipino workers overseas, said the drop was temporary.

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration said the Filipinos who left for work abroad dipped to 380,188 in the quarter from 395,189 last year.

The agency cited the political unrest in Libya, Syria, Yemen, Egypt, Lebanon and Bahrain as the reason for the fall, but Binay said the situation in the Middle East and North Africa were returning to normal, and anyway the Filipinos in those regions were being redeployed elsewhere.

Bangko Sentral Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. said the March remittances brought the total for the quarter to March 2011 to $4.6 billion, which was 5.9-percent higher than the total a year ago.

“Despite the ongoing social unrest in some parts of the Middle East and North Africa region and the string of disasters in Japan, remittances maintained a broadly steady pace of growth in the first quarter of the year,” Tetangco said.

Hundreds of Filipino workers went home from Bahrain and Libya at the height of the political tensions in those countries, while hundreds more left Japan, which was struck by an earthquake that triggered a tsunami across the Pacific Ocean on March 11.

Economists had earlier warned that those developments could slow the flow of remittances from other countries and influence the level of economic growth in the Philippines. Remittances account for about a 10th of the country’s gross national product.

Still, the remittances from Japan rose 5.3 percent to $219 million in the first quarter as most of the Filipino workers in that country lived in cities outside the areas affected by the earthquake and tsunami.

The Filipinos abroad remitted $18.76 billion last year, which was up by 8.2 percent from the total in 2009. The Bangko Sentral expects the figure to grow by 7 percent to hit more than $20 billion this year. –Roderick T. dela Cruz With Eric B. Apolonio, Manila Standard

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