PH to lose $4.5B in OFW remittances due to COVID-19

THE Philippines, in a best-case scenario, will likely lose some $4.5 billion (P228 billion) in cash remittance inflows from migrant Filipino workers this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a party-list group said on Sunday.

“Without the pandemic, we would have expected the aggregate incoming cash transfers from Filipinos overseas to grow by $1.5 billion (or by five percent) this year,” said former ACTS-OFW Coalition of Organizations Rep. Aniceto Bertiz III.

“However, on account of the severe global economic devastation caused by the pandemic, we now project total remittances to reach only $27 billion this year, or down by $3 billion from $30 billion in 2019, assuming the best possible outcome,” said Bertiz, ACTS-OFW chairman.

Bertiz said migrant Filipino workers in the following sectors around the world are bearing the brunt of the economic destruction and job losses:

Shipping (both merchant and cruise operations) and shipping-related support services; Aviation and aviation-related support services (including crewing operations, aircraft maintenance and catering); Travel and tour operations; Hotels, resorts and restaurants; Gaming; and Oil, gas and energy exploration and development (including related construction).

“The foreign labor markets for Filipino workers – except for medical professionals and technicians – will shrink considerably this year, as the global economy declines,” Bertiz said.

The collapse of crude oil prices to $20-$25 per barrel is foreseen dampening to a large extent the demand for Filipino workers – from engineers to construction workers – in the Middle East, Bertiz said.

The kingdoms in the region heavily dependent oil and gas income are anticipated to spend less aggressively on new public infrastructure, according to Bertiz.

“The global economic recession will also reduce the demand for Filipinos sailors as shipping traffic sinks,” Bertiz said.

The Philippines is the world’s second-largest supplier of licensed ship officers and the top provider of unlicensed ship ratings or non-officer crew.

Some 450,000 Filipino sailors serve on ocean-going bulk carriers, container ships, oil, gas, chemical and other product tankers, general cargo ships, pure car carriers and tugboats around the world.

Global ports operator International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICSTI) earlier reported that shipping container volumes across its terminals in 20 countries fell by 10-15 percent in March alone, and are expected to decline further in April.

Meanwhile, Bertiz said ACTS-OFW is counting on the government to provide financial assistance to Filipino workers overseas who have lost income under the “no work, now pay policy” of their employers.

The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration last week began accepting online applications for the $200 (P10,000) cash aid for Filipino workers abroad “who have experienced job displacement due to the host country’s imposition of a lockdown or community quarantine.”