Give A Helping Hand to Those in Need this Christmas

While the Philippines COVID-19 infections (449,400 as of Dec. 13, 2020) and deaths (8,733, same time period) are relatively higher than other countries in Asia but far under the devastation experienced in the West and US, the Philippine economy has been hard hit by the pandemic.

Mandatory closures (lockdowns) of businesses to control COVID-19 and fear of catching the virus that kept many Filipinos from their normal consumer activities are just one part of the story that put a damper on the Philippine economy.

But the real hurt came in the country’s number one export – Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), who because of the worldwide pandemic, have been sent back home as host countries’ economies dived and no longer needed their services, at least temporarily.

And related to the massive lost income of OFWs is the drop of non-OFW remittances sent to the Philippines from Filipinos living abroad who send home money remittances regularly to their family and relatives.

Both combined, remittances from OFWs and Filipinos living abroad sent to the Philippines, traditionally account for 9.1 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP). The drop in this whopping sector of the GDP ultimately translated to less money per household income, less money circulating in the overall economy from businesses to services.

By the percentages, to give Americans an idea of how large the OFW-remittances contributions are to the Philippine economy (9.1 percent), only four sectors of the American economy surpass 10 percent: wholesale trade, manufacturing, retail trade, finance and insurance.

Healthcare, construction, professional services, food services, utilities, transportation, administrative — all of these US industries individually are under 10 percent of the US GDP.

A major drop in any one of these would give a similar picture to what the Philippine economy under COVID-19 has experienced in 2020. But add to that the snowball effect one depressed industry can have on multiple or all industries.

Latest data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) showed personal remittances retreated by 2.6 percent to $21.41 billion from January to August.

In 2019, the amount of money sent home by overseas Filipino workers reached a record $33.47 billion.

In May alone, remittances to the Philippines fell by 19.3 percent.

As the natural default of any economy, one major industry hurts the entire economic body. So that 19.3 percent drop in remittances in the same time period (second quarter), resulted in the Philippine overall economy plunging by 16.5 percent.

In terms of raw number of remittances sent to the Philippines that the country have been relying on, the US alone (OFWs and family contributions) sent back $33.5 billion in cash in 2019.

And remittances aren’t expected to recover anytime soon in a global recession, economists predict.

Part of the lure of working abroad for OFWs is that the average OFW makes 2.5 times what their counterparts receive in pay in the Philippines.

The fact that Filipino politicians have relied too heavily on human export (OFWs) for decades and failed to boost domestic industries (jobs paying at least closer to similar jobs abroad) to wean off the nation’s overreliance on global employers is another issue to be discussed in the future.

But this Christmas, there is at least some hope to make a difference through end-of- year tiding to our family and relatives in the Philippines.

Christmas giving to our family in the Philippines

Philippine remittance companies are hoping that Filipinos abroad who can give will most likely be giving more than usual and close the gap (where others aren’t able to give) this Christmas season. WorldRemit, based on their global surveys, projects that Christmas remittances could end up almost the same as last year’s season, or decline by no more than 2 percent. The reason: people who plan to give, plan to give more.

There is also hope vaccines become readily available in the US and the world, global economies could rebound sooner than expected that could lead to OFWs being recalled to their jobs.

If at all possible and if sending money remittances is a part of your Christmas giving tradition to family in the Philippines, how wonderful it would be to give a little more than usual. Or if you haven’t participated in this tradition, this year would be a great time to start.

Local Giving

CDC Eviction moratorium ends this month. Fourteen million Americans (hundreds in Hawaii) face being evicted by the end of the year and could be homeless as the new year begins, unless these renters are able to come up with rent money. Some of them are first-time unemployed workers due to the pandemic. Congress hasn’t offered assistance for months.

In the spirit of Christmas, how wonderful it would be to help a family in need unable to afford the most basic necessity of shelter.

For renters who lost income due to COVID, visit the State Rent Relief & Housing Assistance Program to find out if you are eligible for assistance. Look into Catholic Charities Hawaii or Aloha United Way to see if they could help with your needs.

Our Lord Jesus Christ is risen. May you all have a blessed and Merry Christmas. Spread joy with tidings to those most in need, if you’re able to.

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