MANILA — Taking advantage of the peso trading at over 10-year low levels, Filipinos living or working overseas sent more money home in March, such that cash remittances that month hit a record-high of $2.615 billion.
Cash coursed through banks last March exceeded by 10.7 percent the $2.362 billion in remittances a year ago, reversing the 1.4-percent year-on-year decline during the same month last year, the latest Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas data released Monday showed.
March marked the 14th straight month that cash remittances breached the $2-billion level.
The March figure surpassed the previous high of $2.559 billion recorded last December. Remittances historically peaked during the month of December amid the Christmas holiday season.
To recall, the peso slid to the 50:$1 level since mid-February before returning to the 49:$1 level in April.
As such, a weaker peso translated into more value for the local currency when exchanged with dollars.
In a statement, BSP Governor Amando M. Tetangco Jr. said remittances from land-based overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) rose 12.8 percent year-on-year to $2.1 billion in March, while those of sea-based OFWs increased 3.4 percent to $500 million.
Tetangco said the top five countries that contributed the bulk of remittances growth last March were the United States, Canada, the United Arab Emirates, Japan and Hong Kong.
At the end of the first three months, cash remittances reached $6.953 billion, up 7.7 percent from $6.457 billion last year, a faster year-on-year growth compared with 3.2 percent a year ago, BSP data showed.
During the first quarter, cash sent home by land-based OFWs jumped 10.4 percent year-on-year to $5.6 billion, while money from sea-based OFWs declined 2 percent to $1.4 billion, Tetangco said.
Nearly four-fifths of the first-quarter cash remittances were from OFWs in Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, the UAE, the United Kingdom and the US, Tetangco added.
For 2017, the BSP had projected a 4-percent growth in remittances.
In 2016, cash remittances totaled a record $26.9 billion, up 5 percent from $25.607 billion in 2015.
Remittances are the largest source of foreign exchange income for the country, helping insulate the domestic economy from external shocks by ensuring the steady supply of dollars into the system.
These cash transfers are also a major driver for domestic consumption, which contributes to robust economic growth.
By: Ben O. de Vera, Philippine Daily Inquirer