Banks asked to waive cash remittance fees

A party-list group on Sunday urged banks to waive their cash remittance fees to provide relief to migrant Filipino workers and their dependents in the Philippines who are reeling from the coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) pandemic’s destructive economic impact.

“Now would be a good time for banks to waive their charges to help families that rely on cash transfers from overseas, considering the enhanced community quarantine’s extension until the end of April,” said former ACTS-OFW Coalition of Organizations Aniceto Bertiz III.

“We estimate that if banks give up their remittance fees for just a month, an extra P14 billion (or $276 million) would flow into households that are counting on money from their loved ones abroad,” said Bertiz, ACTS-OFW chairman.

Bertiz noted the Philippine National Bank (PNB) has already allowed Filipinos overseas to send money to their families who have PNB deposit accounts free of charge from April 9 to May 8. “PNB has set an example that the bigger banks should follow,” Bertiz said.

Banks capture some 80 percent of all cash remittances from Filipinos overseas, according to Bertiz. Citing the World Bank’s Remittance Prices Worldwide (RPW) report, Bertiz said banks remain the most expensive international money transfer agents, imposing fees that averaged 10.46 percent of the amount sent as of the quarter ending December 2019.

“Even if banks waive their remittance fees, they would still be making a bit of money from their foreign exchange buy-sell spread anyway,” Bertiz pointed out.

Overseas Filipinos sent home through banks a total of $2.648 billion in cash in January this year, up 6.6 percent, or $165 million, from $2.483 billion in the same month in 2019.

Meanwhile, Bertiz slammed local government units (LGUs) that have excluded the families of migrant workers from receiving emergency financial aid amid Luzon’s prolonged lockdown.

“It is unfair for LGUs to sweepingly deprive cash relief to families just because they happen to have a member abroad,” Bertiz said.

“A considerable number of Filipinos overseas are also distressed and may be unable to support their families here. Some cannot help because they are also under lockdown and covered by the no work, no pay policy,” Bertiz said.

“Others in fact have altogether lost their jobs – such as those working on ocean-going cruise liners – and are now still marooned somewhere, owing to the sudden freeze in global air traffic,” Bertiz added.