Senator Francis Escudero said the government stands to lose some P3.1 billion in one day if the campaign for “Zero Remittance Day” by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) pushes through this weekend in connection with the “balikbayan” box controversy.
According to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), personal remittances from OFWs in 2014 set an all-time high for the country at $26.93 billion, which accounted for 8.5 percent of the gross domestic product last year.
During the first half of 2015, the BSP reported that personal remittances from OFWs grew by 6.2 percent to $12.7 billion from $11.9 billion in the same period last year. On the average, Filipino workers across the globe sent a combined remittance of P2.014 billion per month from January to June this year.
Escudero said a one-day remittance boycott could translate to losses of over $67 million, or some P3.1 billion (at P46.61 exchange rate), for the Philippine economy—money which could have been spent for the basic necessities of relatives of OFWs here such as food, clothing, shelter and utilities.
“The OFWs play a major part of the Philippine economy and its sustainability, so I don’t understand why the BOC (Bureau of Customs) targets the OFWs in its anti-smuggling campaign,” Escudero said. “This is not the way to treat our modern-day heroes. I say no to physical inspection of balikbayan boxes. The BOC should run after big-time smugglers.”
“The proposed policy is anti-migrant and will only fuel serious backlash like a boycott on the remittances sent by OFWs,” he added.
Escudero, who used to head the Senate Committee on Finance, said the BOC should put to good use its budget for surveillance and prevention of smuggling amounting to P540 million under the 2015 General Appropriations Act, to enhance the agency’s intelligence gathering capabilities.
“Nakakahiya naman sa mga OFW na nagpapadala ng bilyun-bilyong piso para sa ating ekonomiya kung hindi natin magagamit ang pondo na dapat sana ay pinambibili ng mga digital X-ray scanners, K-9 dogs, CCTV cameras. Isama na rin yung wastong training ng mgacustoms personnel para lumakas ang kanilang kakayahan,” the veteran lawmaker said.
Escudero said President Aquino did the right thing when he stopped the BOC from implementing the regulation following complaints from netizens, and OFWs and their families here and abroad.
“Sa tingin ko ginawa ng Pangulo kung ano ang nararapat at natutuwa naman po tayo at pinakinggan nya ang boses ng mga OFW at taumbayan,” Escudero said.