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Arroyo: Overseas Filipinos ‘true global pioneers’

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 00:23:00 09/24/2008

MANILA, Philippines—President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo hailed the overseas Filipino workers as “true global pioneers” in her speech before the 63rd United Nations General Assembly in New York.

“Our overseas Filipino workers are true global pioneers. There isn’t a ship abroad that doesn’t have a Filipino crew or a nation without highly-skilled Filipino workers,” she said in the speech aired live on state television late Tuesday evening.

“The movement of people from one country to another will surely increase, as globalization continues to erase borders. This should be recognized as having implications on the growth and development of both sending and receiving countries,” she said.

More than eight million Filipinos, out of a population of 90 million, work abroad. Their remittances are a major source of foreign exchange and are a significant contributor to the country’s gross national product.

Money sent home by Filipinos working abroad rose 24.6 percent in July from a year earlier to $1.4 billion.

The central bank, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, has attributed the increase to the continued deployment of Filipinos seeking work overseas, with 761,836 leaving the country in the first seven months, a 28.2 percent increase over the same period last year.

Earlier Tuesday, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said Manila would issue an advisory to Filipino seafarers against sailing to waters off lawless Somalia following a wave of kidnappings by pirates that has left close to 100 of their compatriots in captivity. With Agence France-Presse

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Written by joelguinto

TueUTC2008-09-23T16:45:19+00:00UTC09bUTCTue, 23 Sep 2008 16:45:19 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm09

Posted in Uncategorized

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  1. Mr. Guinto:

    I would like to comment on this article in Philippine Inquirer not for the content but for something else that may change how OFW news is reported.

    The word, “Overseas Foreign Workers” is a misnomer because it tends to lump ex-pat Filipino workers, foreign resident Filipinos, ex-Filipinos (emigrants, married to foreigners, balikbayan and their children etc.)

    I checked the POEA website statistics, strictly speaking as of 2007, there were 880,000 Filipino citizens working overseas. But that would not include Filipinos who are directly hired and do not go through the POEA (professional, technical, transfers.), a few I’ve met here or know of. Of these approximately, 28,000 are in North America (again, possibly understated because it doesn’t include the direct hires.) Therefore the 8 million you (most media outlets) mention as OFW’s is very inaccurate because you’re counting everyone else who are out of the country not necessarily because of this program. (POEA stats page.)

    Moving on to the Bangko Sentral Pilipino website, here are some interesting facts and statistics. There was almost $14b in “overseas foreign workers remittances”, and an equivalent of 30% going through informal channels (not through banks or official transfers.) Somewhere on this site, I read that 40% are from North America. 30% of the total “OFW” remittances were in property (the condo and real estate boom); 30% went into “savings.” The balance of 40%, plus the ones remitted unofficially are unaccounted for (possibly for family support, micro/sme businesses, education, healthcare etc.). There’s a lot of money circulating.

    If one were to combine the official POEA numbers and BSP numbers, then: the average remittance of the official OFW would amount to $17,500 per OFW/per annum! This you know is NOT right. And if you consider North America, 40% of $14 b is $5.6 b or $200,000 per OFW/per annum! I know you know this is again wrong.

    I am pointing this out to you because I hope someone will take the time to analyze the “OFW” phenomenon and come up with the “real goods.” And the govt planners can study these numbers, and maximize the use of this money.

    Here are my own conclusions:

    * There is a lot of money flowing into the Philippines, from North America, NOT from contract workers but ex-Filipinos ex Philippine residents, which should be considered as overseas investments from individuals. This is what fueled the condo and property boom in the country, but will probably get hard hit by the US financial crisis. (I don’t buy the constant whining that the Philippines is a “poor country”. )

    * The POEA defined OFW remittances are smaller chunks, and tend to use “informal” channels. I live in Toronto, and came across an informal remittance channel, and they have a $2,500 limit per remittance. The informal and smaller offical remittances probably go to family support. (I’m pretty sure many in the middle east and Asia go through the informal channel, since the informal banking channel is a middle eastern invention. Remember Al-Queda?)

    * Categorizing these remittances as strictly from contract labor (migrant workers) gives the perception that a big chunk of the country’s economy is purely based on labour export. If the numbers are properly analyzed and categorized, then the country’s investment inflows will probably be a lot higher. These remittances are not the same as institutional investments and “hot money”; they are more steady, stable inflow, and stay LONGER.

    * There are many more ex-Filipinos, balikbayan than OFW. They could be tapped not just for tourism but actively solicited for investments e.g. infrastructure projects, tourism development, agricultural development. (Even if they could only move $500 m annually, that could build a couple of MRT’s.) There is already a tourism relation with this group of people, how about extending this to an investment relationship?

    * Finally, perception is everything. If politicians and the media keep using the word OFW (which is not the right term) to the state of the Philippine economy, the world at large will look at it simply as a country for cheap labour. But you know the country isn’t it. I hope you get my drift.

    You may email me directly if you have any questions about the above.

    Alex Buenafe

    TueUTC2008-09-23T18:39:22+00:00UTC09bUTCTue, 23 Sep 2008 18:39:22 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm09

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