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

Anti-Terror Drills Highlight China’s Push Into Central Asia

China, Russia, several central Asian countries wrap up massive anti terrorism military drills in Inner Mongolia More

Erdogan’s First Step: Secure More Power in New Role in Turkey

Erdogan was sworn in as Turkey's first popularly elected president on Thursday; he picked former foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu as PM More

Pakistan Army Fails to Break Political Deadlock

PM Sharif claims he didn't ask army to defuse crisis; military rejects claim More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assaulti
X
Daniel Schearf
August 29, 2014 9:30 PM
After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.7537
JPY
USD
103.79
GBP
USD
0.6032
CAD
USD
1.0957
INR
USD
60.522

Rates may not be current.