NORZAGARAY, Bulacan: Vice presidential aspirant Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. on Friday urged the government to provide a contingency plan for overseas Filipino workers so they could send money to their relatives in wake of reports that local banks have closed their remittance shops abroad.
“The government should immediately put up a contingency plan to cushion the impact of possible shutdown of more money transfer operations abroad to help our OFWs,” Marcos told a news conference here.
The Ilocano lawmaker made the call after the Department of Finance (DOF) warned of possible closure of remittance shops of local banks abroad, citing the Philippines’ involvement in the $81- million Bangladesh Bank cyber heist.
Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said several foreign banks recently closed accounts of money transfer operators that service OFWs.
If this move will continue, he added, the OFWs might have to pay double for sending their money to their families here in the Philippines.
The problem became evident after the Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC), where the $81 million fund was funneled, and the Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) were forced to close shops in Rome and Milan.
Although it was claimed that the closure was not related to the money-laundering scandal, Marcos said the timing is alarming and should prompt the DOF to prepare possible measures to assist the OFWs in case the remittance situation worsens.
“We call our OFWs our modern-day heroes because their remittances are the main driving force of our economy. We must do everything possible to ensure our OFWs would be able to send their money home easily and without added cost, as much as possible,” he added.
The Finance department had sought amendment to Republic Act 9160, or the Anti-Money Laundering Act, to show to foreign banks that OFW money should not be confused with dirty money.
But Marcos said this could take some time.
“Until the law is amended, what would be the recourse of our OFWs in case more remittance centers abroad close shop? They can avail of reputable private online money transfer services but we should at least provide them with information and guidelines to prevent them from falling victim to fraudulent online schemes,” he noted.
JAIME R. PILAPIL