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Philippine remittances up 4.5% in February despite Kuwait ban

Traditional sources keep inflows expanding at steady pace

Around 190 Filipino workers from Kuwait submit their documents upon their arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in February.   © AP

MANILA -- Money sent home by Filipinos working overseas rose 4.5% in February, suggesting that the Kuwait deployment ban imposed for that month failed to dampen remittance growth.

Cash remittances reached $2.27 billion in February from $2.17 billion a year ago, according to the nation's central bank, which said that remittances from the U.S., the United Arab Emirates, Germany and Malaysia drove the expansion.

This brought total remittances over January and February to $4.65 billion, up by 7.1%. Remittances from Kuwait during the two-month period dropped 13.3% to $105.9 million.

A furious Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced a deployment ban in January following the death of several Filipino workers in Kuwait, including a maid whose body was found in her employer's freezer. The ban was formalized mid-February and has stayed even after both countries started working on measures to improve the conditions of Filipinos working abroad.

There are around 10 million Filipinos living and working overseas, and around 250,000 of them are based in Kuwait. Analysts have previously said expats tended to send more money back home when the Philippine currency is weak to get better value. The Philippine peso is trading at its weakest levels in over a decade due to rising imports.

Overseas remittances, which hit a record $28.1 billion last year, is a major economic pillar for the $305 billion economy. They drive domestic consumption and help keep the country's current account balance in check.

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