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).
    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

    US Watching as North Korea Opens Biggest Political Meeting in Decades

    As Workers' Party Congress opens, Washington anticipating possibility of another missile launch or nuclear test as top officials gather

    Video Pop Icon Prince Quietly Helped Afghan Orphans for Years

    He sent thousands of dollars to help an aid group rebuild a training center for orphan boy and girl scouts in Kabul, but kept his involvement secret

    Britain’s Muslims See London Mayor Race as Victory

    Mere running of 45-year-old former government minister and son of Pakistani immigrants Sadiq Khan seen by many as turning point

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labori
    X
    May 05, 2016 6:44 PM
    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labor

    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Troops Recount Firefight Which Killed US Navy SEAL

    A U.S. Navy SEAL killed Tuesday, when Islamic State fighters punched through Kurdish lines in northern Iraq, was part of a quick reaction force sent to extract other U.S. troops trapped by the surprise offensive. VOA's Kawa Omar spoke with Kurdish troops in the town of Telskuf -- the scene of what U.S. officials called a "dynamic firefight."
    Video

    Video British Lawmakers Warn EU Exit Talks Could Last A Decade

    Leaving the European Union would mean difficult negotiations that could take years to complete, according to a bipartisan group of British lawmakers. While the group did not recommend a vote either way, the lawmakers noted trade deals between the EU and non-EU states take between four and nine years on average. Henry Ridgwell reports on the mounting debate over whether Britain should stay or exit the EU as the June vote approaches.
    Video

    Video NASA Astronauts Train for Commercial Space Flights

    Since the last Shuttle flight in 2011, the United States has been relying on Russian rockets to launch fresh crews to the International Space Station. But that may change in the next few years. NASA and several private space companies are developing advanced capsules capable of taking humans into low orbit and beyond. As VOA's George Putic reports, astronauts are already training for commercial spacecraft in flight simulators.
    Video

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    The White House is expressing concern about rising political chaos in Iraq and the impact it could have on the fight against the Islamic State. The U.S. says Iraq needs a stable, central government to help push back the group. But some say Baghdad may not have a unified government any time soon. VOA's White House correspondent Mary Alice Salinas reports.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora

    World Currencies

    EUR
    USD
    0.8742
    JPY
    USD
    107.09
    GBP
    USD
    0.6893
    CAD
    USD
    1.2820
    INR
    USD
    66.504

    Rates may not be current.