MANILA Philippines — Filipinos living and working overseas sent about $2.81 billion to their families here in the first quarter of the year up 14.64% from $2.45 billion in the same period last year.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas the Philippines’ equivalent of the Federal Reserve said the higher remittances were due to the increased deployment of Filipino workers abroad and the rising use of commercial banks as channels for the Filipinos’ remittances.

The increased OFW remittances will likely help the Philippines post a higher economic growth rate for the period.

Of the total amount remitted from January to March almost 71% or $1.73 billion came from Filipinos in the continental U.S. Canada Guam the Northern Mariana Islands and Palau. The remittances from these Filipinos were higher by 17.11% than last year’s comparative figures. About $1.37 billion were sent in by Filipinos working in land-based industries while the rest $360.68 million were from sea-based workers. Sea-based workers include marine seafarers and those working in cruise ships.

For March alone Filipinos sent $1 billion to their families up 15% from last year. Remittances traditionally rise in March because of the money sent by the overseas Filipino workers to their children graduating from the elementary grades high school or college.

BSP Gov. Amando M. Tetangco Jr. told the Journal that commercial banks have improved their services to OFWs by introducing enhanced modes of money transfers such as Internet and online banking; adopting promotional campaigns such as “give-aways” and offering better rates for peso conversion; establishing more remittance centers in host countries; and strengthening tie-ups with foreign currency transfer agents.

“Banks were able to provide wider services to OFWs enabling them to better capture remittances ” he said.

Before the establishment of remittance centers and remittance tie-ups between Philippine and foreign banks Filipinos would usually send money to their families usually through co-workers or friends coming home to the Philippines. Some OFWs also would use unofficial remittance services in their host countries such as Filipino-owned companies with no foreign exchange licenses. These companies would accept the foreign currency and have their Philippine affiliates deliver the amount in pesos to the workers’ families.

But Tetangco added that the higher remittances might also be attributed to the increasing number of Filipinos leaving the Philippines to work abroad.

Citing preliminary data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration he said 267 985 Filipinos left for jobs abroad in the first quarter of the year slightly higher than the 266 931 who left in the same period in 2005. The POEA data also showed that sea-based workers rose by almost 11% in January to March partly offsetting the 2.7% decline in the total deployment of land-based workers to 199 665.

Other major sources of remittances according to BSP data are Saudi Arabia Italy Japan Hong Kong United Kingdom United Arab Emirates and Singapore.

Remittances from overseas Filipinos keeps the Philippine economy afloat by supporting their families’ consumption habits. The BSP is forecasting OFW remittances to grow by 10% this year from $10.7 billion in 2005. The Philippine government meanwhile projects the economy to expand between 5.5% and 6.7% this year from 5.1% in 2005. MBJ