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OFW remittance fees discount pushed in House bill

A bill granting 50 percent discount on overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) remittance fees has been filed at the House of Representatives.

Representative Paolo Duterte of Davao City made the proposal under his House Bill 4469 which he co-authored with Benguet Rep. Eric Yap and ACT-CIS Partylist Reps. Jeffrey Soriano and Edvic Yap.

The bill provides for a 50 percent discount on OFW remittance fees imposed by banks and non-bank financial intermediaries, which in turn can claim such discounts as tax deductions on gross income.

The total deductions that can be claimed from the grant of discount is capped at P24,000 per OFW every taxable year.

“The billions of dollars in remittances sent home by our OFWs, our modern-day heroes, have always been one of the country’s major economic drivers. The money they send home helped the country ride out the economic shock triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, so it is important that we protect their hard-earned earnings,” Duterte said in a statement.

“The hefty reduction in OFW remittance fees is possible and can even be lowered further with the use of  technology, as shown by the innovations  done by financial technology developers who use mobile apps and other digital platforms to offer zero transaction fees and reasonable foreign exchange rates in processing remittances," he added.

The lawmaker said the pioneering financial services are now available in the market and are expected to flourish after the pandemic forced a shift to more digital options in transactions.

The measure also makes it mandatory for OFWs and their families to attend financial education seminars conducted by the government to teach them in properly handling and investing their money.

Duterte cited that such a measure will complement a law passed during the administration of his father, former President Rodrigo Duterte, which established  digital banking services for OFWs by opening and operationalizing the OFBank. 

Dutere said the OFBank offers 24/7 availability as well as shields OFWs from "ludicrous foreign exchange rates and unreasonable remittance fees"  by offering zero charges on transfers between OFBank accounts and Land Bank of the Philippines (LandBank) accounts.

He added that OFBank account holders are also able to invest in retail treasury bonds through the OFBank Mobile Banking App,  among other financial services, he added.

“These innovations pioneered by OFBank can be strengthened by passing House Bill 4469 and the eight other bills now pending in Congress with similar provisions,” Duterte said.

House Bill 4469 also provides that banks and other financial service providers are barred from raising their current remittance fees without prior consultation with the Department of Finance (DOF), BSP, and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).

Violations committed under House Bill 4469, such as the misappropriation or conversion of foreign exchange remittances that prove prejudicial to the OFW or his or her beneficiary; and the imposition of excessive remittance fees, among other infractions, will be penalized with imprisonment and fines depending on the amount of money involved.

OFW remittances rose 3.8 percent year-on-year in September 2022 alone based on Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas records.—LDF, GMA Integrated News