MANILA, March 3 (Xinhua) — Filipino seafarers onboard foreign ocean-going vessels sent home a record amount of 6.14 billion U.S. dollars through the banking system in 2018, up 4.6 percent or 270 million U.S. dollars from the 5.87 billion U.S. dollars recorded in 2017, a member of the Philippine House of Representatives said on Sunday.

“The amount does not include money remitted via non-bank channels as well as cash physically brought home by sailors on vacations,” lawmaker Aniceto Bertiz said in a statement.

By place of origin, Bertiz said the top sources of cash transfers from Filipino sailors in 2018 were the United States, 2.31 billion U.S. dollars; Singapore, 563.85 million U.S. dollars; Germany, 560.98 million U.S. dollars; Japan, 435.82 million U.S. dollars; Britain, 331.23 million U.S. dollars; China’s Hong Kong, 275.53 million U.S. dollars; the Netherlands, 259.12 million U.S. dollars; Greece, 174.98 million U.S. dollars.

“We see the demand for Filipino sailors rising steadily in tandem with international merchant ship traffic, as economies around the world continue to expand,” Bertiz said, adding the demand will grow as the global economy expands in 2019 and 2020.

Filipino seafarers or seamen serve on bulk carriers, container ships, oil, gas, chemical and other product tankers, general cargo ships, pure car carriers and tugboats around the world.

According to the data culled by the ACTS-OFW, there are over 500,000 at any given time, to include staff on cruise ships. It said annual deployment or redeployment averages between 450,000 to 480,000.

More than 10 million Filipinos work overseas to seek better opportunities and send back money to their families, government data show. Of this number, around 2.3 million work in the Middle East and Africa.

The Philippine central bank Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) data showed that personal remittances grew by 3.0 percent year-on-year in 2018, reaching 32.2 billion U.S. dollars, the highest annual level to date.

The growth in personal remittances during the year was driven by remittance inflows from land-based Overseas Filipinos (OFs) with work contracts of one year or more and remittances from both sea-based and land-based OFs with work contracts of less than one year rose annually by 2.8 percent and 4.6 percent, respectively, the BSP said.

The BSP further said that personal remittances are a major driver of domestic consumption in 2018, accounting for 9.7 percent of gross domestic product and 8.1 percent of the gross national income.

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