(File photo from Official Gazette website)

Money sent home by Filipinos abroad reached the highest monthly level this year in May, helped by a narrowing contraction of inflows from the Middle East where most Filipino workers are based.

Cash remittances coursed through banks rose 5.7 percent year-on-year to $2.61 billion, the highest monthly inflow since the holiday season propped up remittances to $2.85 billion in December 2018.

From January to May, remittances amounted to $12.35 billion, up 4.5 percent from year-ago levels. The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) has forecast growth of 3 percent this year.

In a statement, the BSP said remittances, one of the Philippines’ main source of dollars, strengthened across the board, sustaining “steady” growth from all deployed workers.

In particular, remittances from got a boost from land-based workers who sent 9.2 percent more money at $9.7 billion during the first five months. Seafarers, meanwhile, added 3.2 percent to their annual remittances to hit $2.7 billion.

By country origin, the US remained the top source of remittances as of May, cornering 36 percent or $4.44 billion. This was up 11.4 percent year-on-year.

The US was followed by Singapore, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom, Japan and four countries from the Middle East: Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait. Combined, the countries accounted for 78 percent of total remittances for the first five months.

Last year, cash remittances went up 3.1 percent, below the 4 percent BSP forecast and the slowest in 17 years.

This was after inflows from the Middle East contracted 15.3 percent, the worst since the Asian financial crisis in 1997, driven in part by security concerns in the region.

The decline has since tempered and as of May, remittances from the Gulf area were only down 6.6 percent year-on-year to $2.6 billion, equivalent to 21.4 percent of total inflows. (PressONE.ph Business)