Dollar remittances of expatriate Filipinos continued to rise in February just as the coronavirus pandemic was starting to spread around the world, data from the central bank showed, but it remains to be seen whether this could be sustained in the coming months.

According to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, personal remittances from overseas Filipino workers amounted to $2.62 billion in February 2020, higher by 2.6 percent from $2.56 billion in the same month last year.

This brought remittances for the first two months of 2020 up by 5 percent to $5.57 billion from $5.3 billion in the same period last year.

The central bank said personal remittances from land-based workers with work contracts of a year or more rose to $2 billion, or 3.5 percent higher than the $1.9 billion in February 2019.

Meanwhile, remittances from sea-based workers and land-based workers with work contracts of less than a year declined by 0.9 percent to $560 million from $570 million a year ago, likely due to the slowdown in business activity that affected short-term workers as the COVID-19 outbreak was beginning to unfold.

The central bank defines “personal remittances” as the sum of net compensation of employees (that is, gross earnings of overseas Filipino workers with work contracts of less than a year, including all sea-based workers, less taxes, social contributions and transportation and travel expenditures in their host countries), personal transfers (all current transfers in cash or in kind by expatriate workers with work contracts of a year or more as well as other household-to-household transfers between Filipinos who have migrated abroad and their families in the Philippines) and capital transfers between households (that is, the provision of resources for capital formation purposes, such as for construction of residential houses, between resident and nonresident households without anything of economic value being supplied in return).

Cash remittances from overseas Filipinos coursed through banks posted a 2.5 percent growth to $2.36 billion last February from $2.3 billion a year ago.

For the January to February 2020 period, cash remittances amounted to $5 billion, representing an increase of 4.6 percent from the $4.8 billion registered in the comparative period last year.

By country source, the United States registered the highest share to overall remittances at 39 percent. It was followed by Singapore, Japan, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Canada, Hong Kong and Korea. The combined remittances from these countries accounted for 79.4 percent of total cash remittances.

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