By Luz Wendy T. Noble, Reporter

MONEY sent home by Filipino migrants rose for an 11th consecutive month in January, reflecting improving employment prospects abroad despite the Omicron-driven surge in coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) infections.

Data released by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) on Tuesday evening showed remittances increased by 2.5% to $2.668 billion in January from $2.603 billion a year earlier.

“The growth in cash remittances from the United States, Japan, and Singapore contributed largely to the increase in remittances in January 2022,” the central bank said in a statement.

During the month, the US, Singapore, Japan, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, Canada, Taiwan, Qatar, and Malaysia, were the 10 biggest sources of remittances. These countries accounted for 79.6% of the total inflows.

Remittances declined by 10.7% from the $2.987 billion in December, reflecting the seasonal dip in inflows as the holiday season ended.

Despite the spike in cases of the Omicron variant in many countries, remittances rose as economic reopening continued and more job opportunities opened up for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC) Chief Economist Michael L. Ricafort said.

Asian Institute of Management (AIM) economist John Paolo R. Rivera said it may have been possible that the Omicron-driven surge in coronavirus infections pushed OFWs to send more money to help their families in the Philippines.

Metro Manila and some provinces returned to a stricter Alert Level 3 in January as COVID-19 cases reached record highs after the holidays.

“Many people were sick. Remittances were sent, by virtue of altruistic motives, to finance medication and hospitalization,” Mr. Rivera said in a Viber message.

Personal remittances, which include inflows in cash, rose by 2.5% to $2.966 billion in January from $2.895 billion in the same month in 2021.

In 2021, cash remittances hit a new record of $31.418 billion, reflecting the improvement in the global economy as countries learned to better handle the pandemic.

The BSP expects remittances to grow by 4% this year, as virus restrictions are further relaxed.

However, RCBC’s Mr. Ricafort said the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine could slow global growth prospects that may dampen business activities in some host countries.

AIM’s Mr. Rivera also noted that while there could be a decrease in remittance inflows from war-affected economies, OFWs from other countries may send more as they take into account faster inflation caused by rising fuel and food prices.

“Because of the crisis in Eastern Europe that impacted oil prices and affected everyone’s purchasing power driving inflation faster, remittances might be expected to increase to augment the purchasing power of households,” Mr. Rivera said.

Inflows from Russia and Ukraine were at $292,000 and $14,000, respectively, in January. Both are relatively small compared with the $301.872 million worth of inflows sourced from Europe.

Latest data from the Department of Foreign Affairs showed 286 Filipinos have been repatriated, while 84 were evacuated out of war-stricken Ukraine.