Money sent home by Filipinos working overseas climbed 6.6 percent in March to $2.5 billion from $2.4 billion a year ago, led by higher remittances from the United States.
The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas said the figure was the fastest growth in cash remittances since inflows grew 8.7 percent in October 2018. The amount was also the highest this year.
Personal remittances, which include non-cash items, increased at a five-month high of 6.4 percent year-on-year to $2.8 billion in March from $2.6 billion a year earlier.
Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Benjamin Diokno said remittances rose 4.2 percent in the first quarter to $7.3 billion from $7 billion a year ago, driven by higher remittances both from land-based and sea-based workers.
Data showed that remittances from land-based workers increased 2.5 percent to $5.71 billion while money sent by sea-based workers climbed 10.8 percent to $1.58 billion in the three-month period.
“By country source, the US registered the highest share of overall remittances for the period at 35.1 percent. It was followed by Saudi Arabia, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, the UK, Japan, Canada, Qatar, Hong Kong, and Kuwait,” Diokno said in a statement.
“The combined remittances from these countries accounted for almost 78 percent of total cash remittances from January to March 2019,” he said.
Personal remittances also increased 3.7 percent in the first quarter to $8.1 billion from $7.8 billion posted in the same period last year.
“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,” Diokno said.
ING Bank Manila senior economist Nicholas Mapa said the positive year-to-date growth was achieved despite the double-digit decline in one of the Philippines’ traditional sources of remittances―the Middle East.
“For years, analysts had warned of the projected ‘Saudization’ with Filipinos seem to be displaced by locals and it appears that the day is already here. Remittance flows have stalled in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and UAE while flows from the United States have increased,” Mapa said.
“Despite the setback from remittance flows from the Middle East, OFWs appear to still find a way to send home funds to help augment domestic incomes,” Mapa said.
He said the recent surge in imports and the subsequent trade deficits as exports struggled had left the country seemingly exposed on the external front with the Philippines now running a current account deficit.
“Meanwhile, OF remittances have chugged along at a slow and almost sure pace of 3 percent to 4 percent despite volatile oil prices, Saudization and several civil wars and recessions. For the time being, the rapid pace of growth in imports given the nascent investment-driven growth will outpace the slow and steady growth of remittances and BPOs,” he said.
Cash remittances reached a record $28.943 billion in 2018, up 3.1 percent from $28.06 billion in 2017.