Both a Filipino migrants’ leader and the top executive of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas say that the increase in remittances from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) this year is due to the increase in the deployment of workers and professional for overseas jobs. This, in turn, is due to the economic crisis ailing the country.
BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
The leader of a Filipino migrants’ group and the top executive of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas agree that the increase in remittances from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) this year is due to the increase in the deployment of workers and professional for overseas jobs.
This, in turn, is due to the economic crisis ailing the country, said Migrante International chairperson Connie Bragas-Regalado.
The BSP had recently released figures showing that remittances from OFWs could total some $10.3 billion by end-2005, or 20 percent higher than 2004 inflows. OFW remittances for 2004 totaled $8.55 billion. For the first seven months of 2005, OFW remittances amounted to $5.77 billion, or $1.04 billion more than the $4.73 billion recorded during last year’s first seven months.
Contrary to the BSP’s expectations, OFW remittances have registered double-digit growth since last year. The BSP had earlier projected only a five-percent growth in OFW remittances for this year.
“This is due to increased deployment of higher-paid skilled professionals and improved access to formal remittance channels,” BSP governor Amando Tetangco Jr. said in a recent speech.
Regalado expressed a similar view in an interview with Bulatlat. “The remittances have increased because there are now more Filipinos working abroad,” said the Migrante International leader.
The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA)’s data for the first half of 2005 reveal that a total of 216,893 land-based OFWs were deployed for the said period. This is 24,094 more than the 192,799 land-based OFWs deployed for the first half of the previous year.
POEA data further show that 352,214 land-based OFWs all in all were deployed last year.
Latest figures from the POEA point to an average of 2,700 land-based and sea-based OFW departures each day for this year. The POEA even expects the average to reach 3,000 a day by year’s end. The current figure is higher than the 2,500 daily average OFW departures recorded by the POEA for last year.
Crisis and departures
The increase in OFW departures, Regalado said, is due to the economic crisis presently plaguing the country.
In mid-2004, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo admitted that the country is facing a fiscal crisis.
Late last year, former Finance Secretary Juanita Amatong revealed that in 2003 alone, the government lost some P229.4 billion ($4.23 billion based on a 2003 average exchange rate of $1=P54.20) in potential revenues due to tax incentives for large corporations. Meanwhile, the socio-economic think tank IBON Foundation estimates that the government loses some P100 billion ($1.83 billion based on a $1=P54.63 exchange rate as of Nov. 3) a year due to tariff-removal policies imposed by the World Trade Organization (WTO). The government’s National Tax Research Center (NTRC) estimates annual corruption losses at 20-30 percent of the national budget, while losses due to tax leakages are estimated at P215-285 billion a year.
Meanwhile, based on data from the National Wages and Productivity Commission (NWPC), the daily family living wage for a family of six – the average Filipino family – amounts to a nationwide average of P667.20 as of last September. This is P126.60 higher than last year’s national average of P540.60.
Conversely, the minimum wage stands at a national average of only P222.93 daily as of last June, or P444.27 less than the P667.20 national average family living wage for a family of six. The National Capital Region (NCR) has the highest regional minimum wage rate at P325 – as opposed to its family living wage rate of P681 as of last September.
Regalado further revealed that there has been an increase in the number of OFWs coming from the provinces in Mindanao, an island in southern Philippines. She said majority of OFWs in the Middle East come from Mindanao.
Regalado said that the top ten destinations for OFWs are in the Middle East. Most of those who go to the Middle East, she said, come from the Mindanao provinces.
“You can clearly see in Mindanao the gap between the poor there and the poor in Metro Manila,” she said. “The poor in Mindanao are really, really poor.”
The Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) – which encompasses the provinces of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, and Maguindanao – has consistently registered the biggest regional gap between the minimum wage rate and the living wage for an average family. As of 2004, the region’s living wage for a family of six was estimated at P750 ($13.38 based on the year’s $1:P56.05 exchange rate), while its minimum wage was pegged at only P170. As of last September, the region’s family living wage has risen to P858 ($15.71 based on a $1:P54.63 exchange rate as of Nov. 3), while the minimum wage stands at P180.