MONEY sent home by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) rose to a three-month high in March, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) reported on Wednesday.
Personal remittances — made up of OFWs’ net compensation; personal transfers, whether in cash or kind; and capital transfers between households — reached $2.796 billion in the month, 6.4 percent higher than the $2.627 billion posted a year earlier, and 9.3 percent higher than the $2.557 billion booked in February.
The amount was the highest posted since December 2018.
In a comment, Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. economist Michael Ricafort attributed the latest growth to base effects and seasonality.
“The faster growth… may have to do with lower base/denominator effects a year ago,” Ricafort said.
He noted that remittances in March last year fell by 9.9 percent after the government briefly banned the deployment of OFWs to Kuwait and threatened to do the same in other countries that have cases of abused Filipino workers.
“In a typical year, seasonal increase in OFW remittances and conversion to pesos also happen in March to fund increased spending for graduation celebrations, as well as preparations for Holy Week holiday-related spending (considered also as a major spending for families in a typical year), and also for upcoming tuition payments,” Ricafort said.
The March figure brought first-quarter remittances to $8.098 billion, 3.7 percent higher than the $7.809 billion registered in the comparable 2018 period.
“The continued growth in personal remittances during the first three months of 2019 was driven by steady remittance inflows from land-based OF workers with work contracts of one year or more, which aggregated to $6.2 billion, and compensation of sea-based workers and land-based workers with short-term contracts, which totaled $1.7 billion,” BSP Governor Benjamin Diokno said in a statement.
Cash remittances, which only count money coursed through banks, rose by 6.6 percent to $2.514 billion in March from $2.360 billion a year earlier. It also rose by 9.2 percent from $2.301 billion in February 2019.
“Of the 6.6 percent growth in March 2019, 2.0, 1.7 and 1.2 percentage points were contributed by the United States, Singapore and the United Kingdom, respectively,” Diokno added.
Year to date, cash remittances grew by 4.2 percent to $7.299 billion from $7.006 billion last year.
“This growth was buoyed by the increase in remittances from both land-based ($5.71 billion) and sea-based ($1.58 billion) workers, which rose by 2.5 percent and 10.8 percent, respectively,” Diokno said.
By country source, the US registered the highest share of overall remittances for the period at 35.1 percent, he added.
It was followed by Saudi Arabia, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, the UK, Japan, Canada, Qatar, Hong Kong and Kuwait.
The combined remittances from these countries accounted for almost 78 percent of total cash remittances from January to March 2019.
OFW remittances hit $32.21 billion last year, the “highest annual level to date,” the central bank said. (M. Caraballo, TMT)