MANILA — Remittances from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) climbed 7.6 percent in January amid the outbreak of tension in Middle East and North African (MENA) states, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) reported on Wednesday.

BSP Governor Amando M. Tetangco Jr. said in a statement that the amount of money sent home by Filipinos abroad reached $1.476 billion in January or $104 million more than the $1.372 billion recorded in the same month last year as remittances from sea-based OFWs rose 13.3 percent while that of land-based increased by 6.2 percent.

“Remittance flows into the country remained resilient on the back of sustained demand for skilled overseas Filipino workers in different destinations worldwide,” Tetangco stressed.

He pointed out that the bulk of the inflows or about 80 percent of total remittances came from the U.S., Canada, Saudi Arabia, Japan, United Kingdom, Singapore, United Arab Emirates and Italy.

The BSP chief said the job orders approved by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) for land-based OFWs reached 99,926 for service, production, as well as professional, technical and related works in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Taiwan and Kuwait.

Furthermore, the country’s seafaring industry is aggressively targeting to capture at least 50 percent of the global requirement for seafarers in the future.

Tetangco also said the continued enhancement of financial services worldwide through tie-ups with foreign financial institutions, establishment of remittance centers and marketing offices abroad, as well as stronger partnerships forged with correspondent banks and branches abroad helped shore up remittances.

“The expansion of the remittance network indicated the continuing efforts of local banks and other financial institutions to capture a larger market share of the global remittance industry and provide safe, affordable, and accessible fund transfer system for OFWs and their beneficiaries,” he added.

OFW remittances went up by 8.2 percent to a new record level of $18.76 billion last year from $17.35 billion in 2009, exceeding the revised eight percent growth forecast set by the BSP for 2010.

Originally, the BSP penned a six percent growth for OFW remittances last year but revised the target due to the strong demand for skilled Filipino workers abroad.

This year, the BSP sees OFW remittances growing by another eight percent to breach the $20 billion level.

However, monetary authorities are now looking at a lower growth due to the impact of the tensions in MENA states, as well as the devastating magnitude 8.9 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Tetangco said the other day that the BSP would review the projected eight percent growth in OFW remittances, as well as the country’s projected external payments position including gross international reserves (GIR) and the balance of payments (BOP) next month to take into consideration latest indicators and developments.

Tetangco said the projected eight percent growth in OFW remittances would be reviewed in light of the violent protests in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and other MENA states, as well as the devastating magnitude 8.9 earthquake in Japan that resulted to the killer tsunami on March 11.

“We will consider all the data or indicators that we have on both current and (likely) future trends as we scan the operating environment. More directly, even as there are pockets of vulnerabilities in some MENA states due to social unrest, higher oil prices boost the economies of oil producing countries in the MiddleEast. So there are offsets and counterpoints,” he said.

The BSP sees the country’s GIR hitting a new record level of $68 billion-$70 billion and the BOP surplus ranging between $6 billion and $8 billion this year.

Money sent home by OFWs would grow eight percent to breach the $20 billion level this year.

Countries in the Middle East accounted for about 16 percent or $2.96 billion of the total OFW remittances last year.

More than half or $1.644 billion came from Saudi Arabia followed by the United Arab Emirates with $776.3 million, Qatar with $248.8 million, Bahrain with $167.28 million, Kuwait with $106.5 million, Israel with $67.3 million, Oman with $66.76 million, and others.

On the other hand, Asian countries accounted for 12.6 percent to $2.36 billion of the total amount of money sent home by OFWs last year.

Japan was the major contributor with $883 million followed by Singapore with $734.13 million, Hong Kong with $362.5 million, and Taiwan with $121.7 million.

He pointed out that developments abroad play a crucial role in the country’s external payments position.

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