OFW remittances reach 3-month high
Location: Manila, Philippines
Date Published: October 16, 2019
The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) reported that Filipinos working abroad sent home more money in August to push remittances to a three-month high.
Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) remitted $2.88 billion for the month, slightly higher than July's $2.87-billion tally and jumping 4.6 percent from the $2.76 billion received in August 2018. The personal remittance tally is also the highest since May, according to central bank data. Remittances refer to money sent by OFWs to their families back home, often used to support basic needs and some luxury expenses. There are about 2.3 million Filipinos making a living abroad, according to data from the Philippine Statistics Authority.
Of the amount, $2.59 billion of remittances were sent through banks. The August haul brought the eight-month tally to $22 billion, up 3.6 percent from the comparable period in 2018. OFWs employed through long-term contracts sent more money back home at $16.8 billion, coming from $16.3 billion a year ago. Meanwhile, those with contracts for less than a year also contributed $4.7 billion, the BSP said.
According to sources, Filipinos working in the United States accounted for more than a third of the money inflows as of end-August. This is followed by those based in Saudi Arabia, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, Japan, Canada, Hong Kong, Germany, and Kuwait.
Meanwhile, advocates of migrant workers deplored new government rules that would exact up to P50,000 from OFWs even before they leave the country.
Former Labor Undersecretary Susan Ople said the implementing rules of the government’s health care program requires that all land-based OFWs pay their premiums to the state-run Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) before they are issued overseas employment certificates (OECs).
But Ople said that OECs was conceived “to identify and protect OFWs who followed government-prescribed rules on overseas employment.”
“It was never meant to be used by other agencies as a collection tool,” said Ople, daughter of deceased former Sen. Blas F. Ople who dispatched the country’s first official overseas contract workers in the 1970s when he was labor minister.
“The salaries of our domestic workers abroad have been stagnant for more than a decade,” said Ople, who heads the Blas F. Ople Policy Center.
“Asking them to pay that much considering that they will be away from the country for at least two years would cause undue burden given their vulnerable status and work conditions,” Ople said.
Another OFW advocate, foreign employment specialist Emmanuel Geslani, asked how aspiring OFWs could even pay for increased PhilHealth premiums when they have yet to earn anything.
“Where will they get the money? If this is enforced, obviously the agencies will shoulder that payment… which is objectionable to the [recruitment] industry,” he said.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and other health officials signed the new rules on Thursday, only weeks after anomalies at the PhilHealth were uncovered. The anomalies remain unresolved.
Under the new rules, the premium rate for OFWs was also changed from an annual fixed rate of P2,400 salary-based rate to a salary-based rate.
This means that by next year, OFWs would be subjected to the 3-percent premium rate, similarly imposed on professionals and workers in the formal sector.
At an income floor of P10,000 and a ceiling of P60,000, an OFW should pay between P3,600 to P21,600 annually.