By PressOnePH Business

THE MASS protests in Hong Kong are starting to bite into remittance inflows from the former British colony, where more than 200,000 Filipinos are based, contributing to an ongoing slump in remittances in the Middle East and dealing a blow to one of the Philippines’ main dollar sources.
According to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), cash remittances coursed through banks from Hong Kong totaled $59.207 million in June, down 18.8 percent year-on-year.
June marked the second straight month that remittances from the Chinese territory slumped, but the contraction worsened that month from May’s 14.1-percent drop.
Hong Kong citizens took to the streets in June to protest a planned extradition bill that would have given the government power to turn over erring citizens to China, which has control over the territory. Critics say the bill is at risk of being used against mainland dissenters.
While bill deliberations have since been suspended, Hong Kong protesters want the measure completely shelved, something the government is unwilling to do. Since then, protests have nearly put Hong Kong, a global business and financial center, on a standstill. Remittances from Filipinos were a ready victim.
From January to June, remittances from Hong Kong were still up, albeit at a slower 1.9 percent year-on-year and with further risk of slowing down as protests continue. For all of 2018, cash inflows from the island rose 15 percent on year. 
Middle East remittances slump
Sluggish inflows from Hong Kong is putting pressure on overseas remittances already struggling in the Middle East, another major destination for Filipino workers. Remittances, which have kept the economy afloat during the global financial crisis, are now showing signs of weakness. 
In total, cash remittances in June decreased 2.9 percent year-on-year to $2.29 billion, BSP data showed.
“This was attributed to the 5.4 percent year-on-year drop in cash remittances from land-based workers, which was mitigated by the 6.3-percent increase year-on-year in transfers from sea-based workers,” the central bank said in a statement.
“The countries that contributed to the decline were Saudi Arabia and Qatar,” it added.
Cash remittances from the Middle East have continued to drop this year, following their worst performance since 1997 in 2018. The Gulf area is home to 57 percent of overseas Filipino workers as of 2016.  
Specifically, cash inflows from the Middle East dropped 8.8 percent in the first half to $3.043 billion.
Broken down, declines were recorded in Saudi Arabia, where remittances went down 6.8 percent. There were also decreases in Qatar (-25.6 percent), Oman (-6.1 percent), Jordan (-17.2 percent), Lebanon (-7.3 percent), Egypt (-33.6 percent) and United Arab Emirates (-17.2 percent). 
In the first half of the year, cumulative remittances were still on the rise, up 3.2 percent to $14.6 billion, 
The BSP expects remittances to grow 3 percent this year, following an uptick of 3.1 percent last year, which was the slowest since 2001.