Money sent home by Filipinos working overseas declined 9.8 percent year-on-year in March, the biggest drop in 15 years, following the repatriation of Filipinos from Kuwait.
Data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas showed the decline in remittances in March was the sharpest since the 10.9-percent fall in April 2003.
Cash remittances in March reached $2.36 billion, down from $2.615 billion registered a year ago. They were also a reversal of the 4.5-percent expansion in February.
The figure brought cash remittances in the first quarter to $7 billion, up by 0.8 percent from $6.953 billion in the same period last year.
“The negative growth during the month was primarily due to base effect following the sharp increase in remittances in March 2017 at 10.7 percent,” Guinigundo said.
“Further contributing to the decline was the lesser number of banking days in March 2018 compared to the same month in 2017 since the celebration of the Holy Week happened during the last week of March as opposed to April in 2017,” Bangko Sentral Deputy Governor Diwa Guinigundo said.
Guinigundo said the continued repatriation of overseas workers from the Middle East countries could have affected the inflows of cash remittances.
Preliminary data from the Labor Department showed that as of Feb. 8, 2018, some 1,124 OFWs were repatriated from Kuwait.
President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the repatriation of thousands of OFWs from Kuwait where they were allegedly maltreated.
The president also appealed to OFWs in Kuwait to return to the country after Kuwait expelled the Philippine ambassador for launching rescue missions for Filipinos abused by their employers in the Gulf state.
The countries that registered the biggest declines in cash remittances in March were Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and the United States.
Personal remittances, which included non-cash items, also declined 9.9 percent in March to $2.627 billion from $2.915 billion a year ago. This brought the first-quarter figure to $7.809 billion, up 1.3 percent from $7.709 billion in the same quarter last year.
Money sent home by overseas Filipinos reached a record $28.06 billion in 2017, up 4.3 percent from $26.90 billion in 2017.
Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corp. said earlier remittances might grow stronger by 5 percent in
2018 as OFWs would likely send more money in the Philippines when the peso was weaker against the US dollar.
The Bangko Sentral projected a conservative 4-percent growth for remittances this year.