MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Money sent home by Filipino workers overseas grew 3.7 percent in May to a record high of $1.48 billion, defying the World Bank's forecast of a drop in remittances this year because of the global economic crunch.
The May data brought total remittances for the first five months of the year to $6.98 billion, up 2.8 percent from $5.5 billion for the same period last year, the central bank said Wednesday.
The second highest level of remittances, at $1.47 billion, was registered in March.
Nearly 10 percent of the country's 90 million people work abroad — many as nurses, maids, engineers, construction workers and seamen. Last year, overseas Filipinos sent home $16.4 billion, equal to about 10.4 percent of the country's gross domestic product, fueling domestic consumption that is a lynchpin of the economy.
"The stream of remittances from overseas Filipinos continued to show signs of strength despite lingering global economic fragilities, providing some basis for cautious optimism regarding steady remittance levels for 2009," central bank Gov. Amando Tetangco said.
He said remittances continued to be underpinned by the steady demand for Filipino workers, particularly professional and skilled labor, as well as their expanded access to banks' financial products and services.
The World Bank has projected a 4 percent drop in remittances this year to the Philippines, which is the world's fourth biggest recipient of money sent by workers from abroad.
But a central bank statement said demand for Filipino workers is expected to hold up as a result of hiring deals forged by the Philippines with host countries like Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Australia and Japan.
The bank said the rise in May's foreign remittances came with school enrolments and related expenditures as schools in the Philippines reopened in June after holidays.
It said talks have started for Libya to recruit some 4,000 Filipino medical workers, while South Korea has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Philippines on the hiring of up to 5,000 workers by South Korea's manufacturing and other sectors within the next 10 months.