By PressOnePH Business

Most of the Philippines’ top remittance sources are showing signs of weakness, putting into question the long-term sustainability of inflows that the economy has depended much upon.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) reported that cash remittances coursed through banks rose 4.6 percent year-on-year in August to $2.59 billion.

From January to August, cash remittances grew 3.9 percent to $19.81 billion, above the central bank’s year-end forecast of 3-percent growth.

But the total amount of cash from Filipinos abroad masks a downtrend in territories where the bulk of remittances came from during the eight-month period.

From January to August, the central bank said “78.4 percent of total cash remittances” came from the following territories: Saudi Arabia, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, Japan, Canada, Hong Kong, Germany and Kuwait. Remittances from majority of these countries are either on a decline, or growing slower than the cumulative average.

In the Middle East, where 57 percent of Filipino workers were based as of 2016, data showed that remittances dropped 7.2 percent to $4.088 billion from January to August.

Inflows from the region seem all set for a second consecutive year of slump, after a massive 15.3-percent drop in 2018, which marked its worst record since the Asian financial crisis of 1997.

Looking closely, year-to-date inflows from Saudi Arabia decreased 4.9 percent to $1.46 billion as the kingdom prioritizes employing locals over foreigners as part of its economic strategy.

Remittance money from United Arab Emirates suffered a bigger contraction of 15.7 percent to $1.13 billion as of August.

Outside the Gulf area, Filipinos in Germany sent back $518.6 million, down a little more than a tenth year-on-year, central bank figures showed.

Meanwhile, remittances from Hong Kong inched down 2.8 percent in the eight-month period to $529.5 million, a direct impact of the mass protests against Chinese rule in the territory.

While still increasing, remittances from Japan and Singapore grew only 2.8 and 2.2 percent, respectively, below the 3.9-percent average for the first eight months.

Declines were partially offset by expansion posted in the UK, Kuwait and Canada. Among the three countries, remittances from Kuwait grew the fastest at 14.5 percent to $507.04 million, although this came from a drop of 20 percent over the same period a year ago.

The US remained the top source of remittances for the eight-month period, contributing $7.33 billion, up 11.7 percent year-on-year. It accounted for 37 percent of total inflows.

Last year, total cash remittances went up 3.1 percent to $28.943 billion, the slowest since 2001.