Cong Duterte's bill in line with dad's pro-OFW legacy

Mindful of his father's legacy, Davao City 1st district Rep. Paolo Duterte is pursuing the passage of a bill that would provide overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) discounted rates on remittance fees.

Davao City 1st district Rep. Paolo Duterte (left) and former president Rodrigo Duterte (Rep. Duterte's office)

Embodied in House Bill (HB) No.4469, the measure also aims to safeguard from exorbitant charges OFWs' hard-earned money, which they send back home to their families.

“The billions of dollars in remittances sent home by our OFWs, who we consider as modern-day heroes, have always been one of the country’s major economic drivers. The money they send home helped the country ride out the economic shock triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic. It is important that we protect their hard-earned earnings,” Rep. Duterte said in a statement Tuesday, Dec. 13.

Incidentally, December is the Month of Overseas Filipinos.

Rep. Duterte said the bill would also complement the OFW-friendly legacy of his father, former president Rodrigo Duterte, particularly the establishment of the Overseas Filipino Bank (OFBank).

OFBank is the first branchless and digital-only bank in the country exclusively catering to the financial needs of Filipinos based abroad, the second-term Davao City lawmaker said.

Rep. Duterte noted that the OFBank not only offers 24/7 availability, but also shields OFWs from ludicrous foreign exchange rates and unreasonable remittance fees by offering zero charges on transfers between OFBank accounts and Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) accounts.

OFBank account holders are also able to invest in retail treasury bonds through the OFBank Mobile Banking App, among other financial services, he added.

“These innovations pioneered by OFBank can be strengthened by passing HB No.4469 and the eight other bills now pending in Congress with similar provisions,” Rep. Duterte said.

HB 4469, which was filed by Rep. Duterte, Benguet Rep. Eric Yap and ACT-CIS Partylist Reps. Jeffrey Soriano and Edvic Yap, makes it mandatory for OFWs and their families to attend financial education seminars conducted by the government to teach them in properly handling and investing their money.

The bill also backs a proposal setting a 50 percent cut on OFW remittance fees imposed by banks and non-bank financial intermediaries, which, in turn, can claim such discounts as tax deductions on gross income.

The total deductions that can be claimed from the grant of the 50 percent discount is capped at P24,000 per OFW every taxable year.

Duterte pointed out that this hefty reduction in OFW remittance fees is possible and can even be lowered further with the use of technology, as shown by the innovations done by financial technology (fintech) developers who use mobile apps and other digital platforms to offer zero transaction fees and reasonable foreign exchange rates in processing remittances.

These pioneering financial services are now available in the market and are expected to flourish after the pandemic forced a shift to more digital options in transactions, Rep. Duterte said.