News / Economy

Remittances Play Significant Role in Philippines

A customer counts Philippine pesos at a money changer in Manila, (File photo).
A customer counts Philippine pesos at a money changer in Manila, (File photo).
TEXT SIZE - +
Simone Orendain
— Contributions from Filipinos abroad came to nearly 10 percent of the Philippine economy last year.  The figure is based on remittances, which hit a high of $21 billion in 2012.  But the popular notion that contract workers sent that much back home is only partly true.  Money from émigrés also plays a significant role. Many feel obligated to remit money back into the Philippine economy from overseas.

Cultural notion

At the Commission on Filipinos Overseas, which tracks Filipinos who emigrate to other countries, Rodrigo Garcia does policy research.  He said in the Philippines, sending money back home is driven by a cultural notion.  

“It is assumed especially by your extended family that once you’re there you have to give something.  Well, that’s the case there.  You have to give something or else those loved ones of yours will think- not less of you- but they will think something’s wrong with them," said Garcia. "That you have forgotten them.”

Garcia said of the more than nine million Filipinos overseas, slightly more than half have emigrated.  And he said their remittance pattern is more sporadic than that of contract workers, who tend to send money home every month.

Investment

Jaime Flores fits the émigré profile.  He is an American citizen who has been living in Chicago for more than 40 years. Flores was a Certified Public Accountant in the Philippines and when he was vacationing in the U.S. he decided to get a work visa.  He got a permanent job in Chicago and has since sent occasional monetary gifts to family members.  Today the retiree sends birthday money - about $100 each - to his siblings and his mother.

“And then in Christmas I send them $400 [each].  It’s just a token gift," Flores stated. "It’s not to sustain them because they are able to sustain themselves.”

While the Philippine government does not track what the remittances pay for, there is anecdotal evidence from major real estate firms that money from émigrés also goes toward property investments.

Flores said a number of his Filipino American friends have invested in condominiums in Manila.  Others have had houses built so they could live in the Philippines during America's winter months.  

Retirement

Jaime David’s entire family - including his parents and siblings - lives in the United States.  But David said he looks forward to spending part of his retirement in the Philippines, and he has built up a nest egg (monetary reserve) for this.  He owns rental properties in Manila and a nearby province.  The more than $1,000 he collects in rent goes into a local bank account.  

“We keep it there.  So that when we go home, we have money to spend there.  I don’t bring too much money from here,” said David.

Figures from the Philippines Central Bank show overwhelmingly that remittances come from the United States, leading researchers to believe they came from émigrés.  But the Central Bank recently said that a number of banks, particularly in the Middle East, clear remittances through their headquarters in the U.S.  More than two million contract workers are based in the Middle East.  

According to Garcia, on average those workers send $300 to $500 monthly to their immediate families.  That is more than half of their monthly wages.

Obligation

Contract worker Gil Lebria’s remittances have been a matter of survival for his family.  Over a period of 13 years, the 38-year-old logistics officer worked in six different countries - mostly in the Middle East.  His last job in Libya was cut short in 2011 by civil unrest.  

For most of that time, Lebria said he had trouble with contracts that employers would switch or negate.  As a result his salary would be delayed for months at a time, but he still had to send money back home. “I always borrow money from another Filipino who’s working in another company to sustain my family," he explained. "Because my family always needs the money for daily financials.”

Migrante International, the Philippines largest migrant worker advocacy group, said Lebria’s case is not uncommon.  Mic Catuira Catuira is a caseworker. He said a majority of Filipinos who go abroad for work have people at home depending on them.  
“It’s nearly impossible for Filipinos to disregard the needs of their family.  Most of them would sacrifice having to take out loans with high interest, like it could go as high as 30 percent,” said Catuira.

Even with bad luck on contracts, Lebria said he is applying for work this time as a butcher, which is a skilled labor position in high demand in Canada and Australia - countries that offer paths to permanent residency.

You May Like

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Turkish Law Gives Spy Agency Controversial Powers

Parliament approves legislation to bolster powers of intelligence service, which government claims is necessary to modernize and deal with new threats Turkey faces More

Video Face of American Farmer Changing

Average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Face of American Farmer is Changingi
X
Mike Osborne
April 18, 2014
The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.7217
JPY
USD
102.17
GBP
USD
0.5949
CAD
USD
1.1009
INR
USD
60.326

Rates may not be current.