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Philippines expect remittances to rise 10% in 2009

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Philippines expect remittances to rise 10% in 2009
The Philippine central bank expects remittances sent home by overseas Filipino workers through formal channels to rise 10 percent to around $17.6 billion next year despite a slowing global economy, Reuters quoted an official as saying.

Diwa Guinigundo, central bank deputy governor, told reporters at the weekend that total remittances including money sent home through friends and relatives would expand also by 10 percent to about $18.3 billion in 2009.

Remittances from overseas are equivalent to roughly a tenth of the southeast Asian country's gross domestic product, fuelling domestic consumption and serving as a cushion to the falling Philippine peso and the shrinking balance of payments surplus.

The peso has fallen about 11.5 percent against the dollar so far this year and is one of the region's major laggards, a reversal of its performance last year as Asia's top gainer.

But the peso is finding some comfort in strong remittance inflows, as more Filipino workers take higher-paying jobs overseas, particularly in the Middle East and some parts of the United States, officials have said.

The Philippines is on track to hit its forecast of a 10 percent rise in 2008 remittances to $15.9 billion, partly due to the wider use of money transfer services of banks and non-bank agents and with Filipinos sending home more money to their families facing higher fuel and food prices.

Remittance inflows through formal channels in the first seven months of the year reached $9.6 billion, up 18.2 percent from a year ago, after hitting a record high for a single month in June.

About 9 million of the country's 90 million people live and work abroad, mostly as seafarers, nurses, doctors, care-givers and domestic helpers.

The central bank expects strong remittances to help push up the country's balance of payments surplus to $2.3 billion next year, higher than the $2 billion surplus estimate this year.

But forecasts of world oil prices rising anew to $100 per barrel may further widen the Philippines trade deficit to about $16.5 billion next year, about a quarter higher than the revised forecast of a trade gap of $13.2 billion this year, central bank documents obtained by reporters showed.

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