LAST year the Philippines received $28.5 billion as remittances its overseas citizens have sent home to their families or as their nest egg. It made up a tenth of the nation’s GDP and the Philippines ranked third in line among countries receiving foreign remittances—trailing India (2nd) and China (1st), both with significantly bigger populations and economies. However, in terms of Remittances-to-GDP ratio the beautiful archipelago is trailing behind only Nepal where almost 30 percent of GDP comes from remittances.

The remittance landscape is scattered and lacks transparency. Banks are charging exorbitant fees, remittance companies differ greatly in terms of service offerings and new digital platforms have yet to be fully adopted. The best proof for this is a visit to Singapore’s Lucky Plaza on a Sunday afternoon. What appears like a normal shopping mall six days of the week suddenly turns into a vibrant Filipino hotspot. When faced with the choice of fund transfer, most Filipinos follow suggestions from the money exchanger and opt for one of the outlets of domestic remittance companies. Often, their choice is constrained by the bankability of the recipients as most of the times a bank account is needed to receive funds. This leaves many OFWs vulnerable to hidden fees, unfavorable currency rates and above all, long lines at the remittance shops.

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