Pandemic will affect OFW remittances

e-cartoon-mar-21-2020 Remittances from our Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in January amounted to $2.94 billion. This was 7.3 percent more than the corresponding figure in January of the previous year, 2019, of $2.7 billion.

Personal remittances from land-based workers amounted to $2.27 billion. Remittances from sea-based workers amounted to $600 million. The Banko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said cash remittances through banks totaled $2.5 billion, up by 6.6 percent from the previous year’s $2.48 billion.

The biggest portion of the January OFW remittances came from the United States (US), followed by Japan, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Canada, Hong Kong, and South Korea.

We welcome this very positive report of OFW remittances last January, but we must be ready to accept the inevitability of these remittances falling after this January report. For the coronavirus epidemic has started spreading out all over the world, after it subsided in China.

At a press conference in the last week of February, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nogales said the government hopes that the pandemic will have only “minimal effect” on the cash remittances of our OFWs. At that time, some 20,000 OFWs had already been allowed to return to their jobs in Hong Kong and Macau after being stranded here by a Philippine travel ban.

Mainland China accounts for only 0.1 percent of total OFW remittances, Hong Kong, 2.7 percent; and Macau, 0.4 percent, Nogales said. “The Department of Labor and Employment assures us that remittances from other countries like the US , UAE, and Saudi Arabia may help compensate for the possible slowdown in remittances from China, Macau, and Hong Kong,” the secretary added. “We are encouraged by historical data that shows that Philippine remittances have been resilient in the face of global downtrends.”

In the last few days, however, the spread of the coronavirus has been relentless. The US, where most of our OFWS work, was reported sinking deeper into chaos, with many governors and mayots shutting down restaurants, bars, and schools. The other major provider of work to our OFWS, Saudi Arabia, is suffering from the collapse in the price of its crude oil.

Clearly, the government’s hopes for our OFWs and their remittances have to be revised in the face of these reports. We must be ready for the next Banko Sentral report in February and thereafter.

But the meanwhile, we welcome the report of the increased OFW remittances in January. It is tribute to the industry of our workers who, in the face of employment difficulties at home, have moved out around the world to earn a living for their families and, at the same time, boost the nation’s dollar reserves.

Like the rest of the nation, they will be undergoing great difficulties in the coming months but we have no doubt about their resilience and their determination as a major part of the country’s economic strength and stability.