The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) today said the opportunities and the productive role of the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) have been greatly boosted with the Philippines’ removal from the watch list of the Paris, France-based Financial Action Task Force (FATF) against money laundering last weekend.

Labor and Employment Acting Secretary Manuel G. Imson said the delisting safeguards the OFWs from the possibility of hindrances on their remittances, thereby ensuring sound remittance channels. He said this “affirmed and vindicated the government’s thrusts to spare the OFWs from any inconveniences and delays in their remittances.”

Media reported that the FATF, on its plenary meeting in Paris that culminated last weekend, had acted decisively to delist the Philippines from its watch list along with two other countries.

At the same time, Imson cited a report of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) that total OFW remittances increased to an all-time high by 11.8 percent to US$8.5 billion in 2004 from $7.6 billion in 2003, the highest since 1970, and surpassing the central bank’s expectations of a six percent growth for the year.

He also cited preliminary data which showed that total OFW deployment in some 190 countries worldwide rose to 871,700 last year compared to 867,969 in 2003.

According to the BSP, the continued rise in OFW remittances is attributable primarily to the growing demand for Filipino workers overseas, and the sustained marketing campaign abroad pushed by commercial banks.

The labor and employment acting chief said the Congress’ crucial amendments to RA 9160, otherwise known as the Anti-Money Laundering Act, in 2003, boosted the confidence on the country’s efforts against money laundering.

Imson said various OFW groups actively sought the passage of the amendments, which complemented the efforts of the Philippine government, including the DOLE, in complying with the FATF’s international anti-money laundering measures.

“We received petitions from 127 OFW groups/associations from such host economies as Hong Kong, Korea, Rome, Israel, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia on the matter,” he said, adding that, “land-based and maritime industry providers responsible for the deployment of millions of OFWs also pushed appeals and resolutions.”

The petitions included those from OFW groups such as the KAIBIGAN, Philippine Migrant Workers’ Right Watch, OFW NGO Foundation, DAWN, Women in Development Foundation, and United Filipino Seafarers.

“With the delisting of the Philippines from the anti-money laundering list, the country can rest assured that our efforts to ensure the welfare of the OFWs and their families are on a firm and steady course,” Imson said.

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