Filipino Financial Problems? Here Are Key Reasons Why

High borrowing and lack of saving habit, says Chairperson of Commission on Filipinos Overseas


VM Sathish
Emirates 24/7
April 10, 2015

Participants during the awareness campaign (Supplied)

Heavy borrowings and a lack of saving habit have been blamed for the financial problems the Filipinos are facing in the country and abroad.

Imelda M. Nicolas, Chairperson of the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO), said she was shocked to know the high level of financial debt the Filipinos carry in the country and abroad.


William Gois, Regional Coordinator, MFA and Imelda M. Nicolas, Chairperson of the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO),highlights migrants in crisis situations.

“Heavy borrowings and lack of prudent saving habits are major problems that we are trying to address through awareness campaigns in all the 20 provinces in the Philippines and among the more than 10 million Filipinos living abroad.

"We have been regularly conducting awareness campaign ‘Peso Sense’ and the ‘Philippines Financial Freedom Campaign’ to improve the financial acumen of both the overseas Filipinos and their families back home,” she said.

Imelda advised her countrymen living abroad not to resort to heavy borrowings to meet demands from their family members.


Financial awareness campaigns have been initiated across the UAE also to address the pressing problem that haunts many workers.

Frank Cimafranca, the Philippines Consul General in Dubai, and Grace Relucio Princesa, the Ambassador of the Philippines in the UAE, also highlighted the dangers of high indebtedness.

They said a growing number of Filipinos in the UAE are getting into mounting credit card debt and unpaid loan problems.


In 2014, overseas Filipinos remitted $26.93 billion (Dh99 billion) mainly from the US, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Japan and Hong Kong. On average, 5,000 Filipinos go abroad for work a day, making an annual outflow of 1.4 million migrant workers.The awareness campaigns have been initiated in cooperation with the CFO and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to educate Overseas Filipinos Workers (OFW) and their families about how to spend money sensibly by giving various guidelines for young students belonging to the OFW community, adults, entrepreneurs, homemakers, and professionals.

various rights groups under the Migrant Forum Asia jointly discussing pressing problems @Manila

Rose Bayan, a social worker from Kunlagan Center Foundation in the Philippines, said parents who work abroad send money for their children’s wellbeing and education but the guardians or old parents do not give them all the money.

“Sometimes even the father will be wasting the remitted money for liquor or other things, leaving the children strained financially, said Rose.

Student suicides are sometimes reported from various schools and colleges due to financial problems and depression.

Children of OFWs who are enrolled in expensive schools sometimes end up in financial problems when their regular allowances are stopped due to irregular or non-payment of salary in the foreign countries.

Rose, who works with several migrant organisations under the Migrants Forum Asia, told Emirates 24|7 in an interview that the financial burden for OFWs mostly starts from the home country where people borrow from private money lenders at abnormally high interest rate.

She revealed that many poor migrants borrow directly from the recruitment agencies also. As part of a campaign to regulate recruitments, the Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA) has put forward many suggestions to clean up the recruitment process both in the Philippines and foreign countries.

“Schools in most areas are dominated by students from the OFW families who get their allowances from abroad. Some OFW students are living comfortably with all the comforts and gadgets. In many cases, parents send money but the amount is not entirely used for the children.

"Seventy per cent of the amount is spent by the custodians. Both men and women in the remittance dependent regions spend the money lavishly,” said Rose who works among returned migrant woman and children.

CFO Chairperson Imelda said the ‘Peso Sense’ campaign focuses on guiding the students, especially of the OFW families enrolled in expensive schools, to keep track of their regular expenses and savings, avoid buying unwanted things and gadgets. They are also advised to recycle the school materials instead of always buying new stuff.

She advised student community must participate in the family’s budget planning/forecasting process and use the spare time creatively to become entrepreneurs.

Meanwhile, another issue that was highlighted during the awareness campaigns and a major drag on the Filipinos’ finances is the addiction to gambling.

“Many OFWs especially with stretched finances feel that they can resolve their financial problems through gambling.

"If you win once, nine times you are bound to fail. I know a well-paid professional OFW who lost one year’s salary in one month’s gambling. His family is in deep financial mess. Instead of resolving their financial problems, gambling intensifies the OFW financial woes,” said Norman Gracias of the Public Services International (PSI), an international trade union group active in a number of countries where OFWs live.

William Gois, Regional Coordinator for MFA, highlighted the problem of high indebtedness among OFWs due to high recruiting rates. A new financial problem facing the OFW professionals stranded in war  prone countries like Libya and Yemen.

“Many of the OFWs professionals who used to work with fancy salaries in the oil and gas industry had kept their savings in the local banks.

"Due to the fighting and instability the currency of Libya has depreciated by more than half, wiping out the life savings of many OFWs returning home." The MFA is bringing the OFW problems to the attention of international community and the Philippines Government through various awareness campaigns.

Many Filipinos migrate to solve their problems back home, but now migration is causing new problems of indebtedness and insolvency among OFWs.


VM Sathish
Emirates 24/7
April 10, 2015


Overseas Filipinos Can Become Political Game-Changers

By Maria Aleta Nieva Nishimori

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CFO head Imelda Nicolas

MANILA – Hundreds of Filipinos from around the world are in Manila to discuss ways on how to further contribute to the Philippines and likewise promote overseas absentee voting for the May 2016 national elections.

"We all know that this year and the next will be critical and crucial for the country as we choose our national leaders in May of 2016. I urge you to exercise your right of suffrage and join us in our campaign to increase overseas registration and overseas voting," said Secretary Imelda Nicolas of the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO).

Nicolas hopes that participants will actively campaign for an increased overseas registration and turn out when they return to their respective host countries.

"Overseas Filipinos are able to see things level-headed. Iba ang perspective nila, independent sila. They can be the game changers in terms of politics," she said.

Nicolas welcomed hundreds of participants from about 30 countries to the 3rd Global Summit of Filipinos in the Diaspora. This year's theme is "Vision and Action for the Filipino Diaspora for the 2015 and Beyond".

She said the summit also paves the way for people to build up their network and strengthen ties among Filipino groups from around the world.

"In the first global summit, we had 18 countries. Now, its almost double, parang 30 countries. In terms of regions, tamang-tama lang. Ang malaki America, but the very fact that all of the regions are represented, is for me a very good sign. We are going beyond the problems. We are now looking at the solutions," she said.

The CFO chief is likewise happy with the setting up of a new network of Filipinos overseas, this time, in the Middle East – the Middle East Network of Filipino Diaspora (MENFiD)--and hopes for more groups to follow suit.

"Wala pang Asia. The very possible another network is what we call the Oceania or Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. We have an increased number of delegates from that area," she said.

A year after the 1st Global Summit in 2011, delegates from Europe held their own regional summit and launched their own group called European Network of Filipino Diaspora (ENFiD).

ENFiD Executive Director Marie Felisa Luarca-Reyes said they now have 14-country members.

"The statistics that I can give is through social media, we have about 3,000 members already," she said.

Luarca-Reyes said that ENFiD hopes to be able to network with other Filipino groups.

'We are having our own conference in Italy, July 30 to August 2. We are hoping it will purely be a European-focused conference but it would be good if some Filipinos from other countries would come and then share, learn the difference in issues that they face," she said.

MENFiD interim head Fidel Escurel said their network is composed of members from the GCC countries. But they hope to be able to encourage more Filipino groups from the Middle East to join MENFiD.

"Gusto po nating maging productive po tayo at di pasanin ng gubyerno kung di, tayo na magbibigay ng trabaho sa mga kababayan natin," he said.

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MENFiD Interim Head, Fidel Escurel from Doha and ENFiD Executive Director Marie Felisa Luarca-Reyes

Overseas Filipinos as 'heroes'

In her welcome remarks on Thursday, Nicolas said she described overseas Filipinos as "bayani" or "heroes".

"We have moved outside our comfort zones to explore how and where we could make a difference. We have confronted the self-imposed restricting construct of our ego and faced instead the brave new world to conquer whether here in our country or in others," she said.

As of 2012, the CFO said an estimated 10.5 million Filipinos are working and living in more than 200 countries and territories around the world. Of the number, 4.93 million are permanent migrants, while 4.22 million are temporary migrants, and 1.34 million are irregular migrants.

"Your sacrifices and immense generosity have restored our faith in our dream for our Inang Bayan. We have reclaimed the meaning of being Filipino in this globalized world with a sense of common purpose and resolve. I pray that we continue to work together for a present and a future that this country and the next generation deserve," Nicolas said.


By Maria Aleta Nieva Nishimori

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