Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Philippine seafarers buoy up remittances

Business Mirror

DOLLARS sent home by sailors continue to buoy the overall remittances from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) said on Tuesday.

“The rate of increase in remittances from sea-based Filipino workers abroad continues to outpace considerably the growth [rate] in money transfers from land-based laborers,” Ernesto Herrera, TUCP secretary-general and former senator, said.

He said remittances from Filipino sailors increased by 5.52 percent ($41.851 million) to $800.535 million in the first quarter of the year versus $758.684 million in the same period in 2008.

In contrast, Herrera said the cash wired home by land-based OFWs grew by only 2.03 percent ($64.697 million) to $3.256 billion in the first quarter compared to $3.191 billion in the same period in 2008.

He attributed the continued growth in remittances from sea-based Filipino workers increased deployment on account of global demographics.

“Despite the severe global recession, compared to a decade ago the world’s economy and population today are much larger, thus, requiring more ships to move all sorts of commodities faster across continents,” Herrera pointed out. He also said a growing number of American, European and Japanese sailors are fast approaching retirement age, and are being replaced wholesale by younger Filipinos.

“Western and Japanese sailors are also increasingly shunning jobs onboard ships, preferring shipping desk or port-related jobs instead,” he added.

Remittances from sea-based workers are also partly being propped up by Filipino hospitality workers on cruise ships, according to Herrera, former chairman of the Senate committee on labor, employment and human resources development.

Barring a catastrophic global economic depression, he said the more than 350,000 Filipino sailors on foreign vessels at any given time could easily rise to 500,000 in five years.

In the first quarter, the top 10 sources of remittances from Filipino sailors were the United States ($399.912 million); Japan ($75.057 million); Norway ($70.351 million); Great Britain ($56.323 million); Germany ($50.82 million); Singapore ($32.178 million); Greece ($29.342 million); Cyprus ($15.773 million); the Netherlands ($12.233 million); and Denmark ($11.054 million).

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas earlier reported that total remittances from OFWs (both land and sea based) expanded by 2.7 percent ($106.548 million) to $4.057 billion in the first quarter versus $3.950 billion in the same period in 2008.

Of the $106.548 million year-on-year net increase in remittances, 40 percent was from sea-based workers, while 60 percent was from those based on land.

Herrera, meanwhile, urged the government to step up pressure on shipping firms and their staffing agencies to secure the release of the last 44 Filipino sailors still being held captives at sea by African pirates onboard four vessels.

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