United Nations Welcome to the United Nations. It's your world.

International Day of Family Remittances, 16 June 2020 “Supporting remittance families build resilience in times of crisis”

Tuesday, 16 June 2020
H.E. Teodoro L. Locsin Jr. Secretary of Foreign Affairs
New York, USA


It is my pleasure to be here today to commemorate the International Day of Family Remittances. The theme answers the long and crying need: “Supporting remittance families build resilience in times of crisis.”

I thank our friends and partners in this endeavor: Guatemala, Madagascar, Moldova, and IFAD, as well as the wider network that advocates for migrants, including the Remittance Community Task Force.

My country, the Philippines, along with Algeria, Guatemala and Madagascar led the adoption of the landmark resolution declaring June 16 as the International Day of Family Remittances. The resolution recognizes the link between remittances and sustainable development; it acknowledges the fundamental contribution of migrant workers to the well-being of their families and communities of origin. It is how a country unable to take care of its people as decency demands is able to cope. Many of its people take themselves out of their country’s hands by taking care of themselves abroad. But this never takes away a country’s responsibility to protect its people wherever in the world they bravely venture for work and wages. It is the least a country can do in return.

I introduced the resolution in the General Assembly and distinctly remember that the resolution was adopted on 12 June 2018, our Independence Day — a fitting tribute to the hard work and sacrifices of our overseas Filipino workers who use remittances to improve the lives of their families and to create a future for their children back home — the pain of separation perhaps thereby ameliorated.

Pursuant to our shared commitment to leave no one behind and reach out first to those farthest behind in realizing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, our event today is made more significant against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic and its multidimensional impact on around 272 million international migrants[1] globally.

We thus welcome the Policy Brief of the Secretary General on COVID-19 and People on the Move, highlighting the vulnerabilities and risks faced by migrants in this crisis. We strongly support the Brief’s four basic tenets:

  1. exclusion is costly in the long run whereas inclusion pays off in the short and long if I might add;
  2. (ii) the response to COVID-19 and protecting human rights are not mutually exclusive; and if I might add, failure to protect human rights in the situation is never justified, and always self-condemning and self-destructive;
  3. no one is safe until everyone is safe; and
  4. (iv) people on the move are part of the solution as I have shown. We note, with concern, that this Policy Brief reveals that COVID-19 is projected to result in a decline in remittances of about $109 billion dollars, causing hardships to 800 million people in low- and-middle-income countries that heavily depend on them. 

Further, as a call for solidarity so no one is left behind in these worse times, the Philippines initiated and with allies in the cause facilitated the Joint Statement on the Impact of COVID-19 on Migrants. The statement was signed by 103 Member States across all regions. In transmitting the Joint Statement to the Secretary-General, we highlighted our conviction that the millions of migrants around the world today are agents of sustainable development and instrumental to our collective recovery. We underlined that we count on the continued support of the Secretary-General in ensuring the protection of the rights of migrants and in mitigating the impacts of the pandemic on migrants globally.

According to World Bank data, the Philippines is the fourth-largest recipient of remittances globally.  In 2019, remittances accounted for 9.8% of the country’s GDP. Seventy-five percent (75%) of remittance money is spent to support household consumption, which includes essential goods such as food, education and healthcare. Large flows of the remittances come from the US, Europe and the Middle East, collectively accounting for 70% of all remittances.

Remittances from overseas Filipino workers — land-based and sea-based — reached US$33.9 billion in 2019. This makes remittances one of the biggest foreign exchange earners after exports, supporting the Philippine peso and driving consumption.

A Fitch report in May 2020 projects that the country will experience a drop in remittances as more overseas Filipinos are displaced and repatriated with the uncertain prospects abroad they will be back in the jobless situation from which they fled. About 300,000 to 400,000 overseas Filipino workers may be affected by the pandemic, with total repatriates to reach 70,000 by the end of June 2020.

Our advocacy in keeping the continuous flow of remittances is focused on maximizing the benefits to senders and receivers of remittances.

As a critical link to the remittance chain, remittance service providers were classified by the Philippine government as essential services allowed to operate even during lockdown. The Central Bank waived its fees and charges for financial institutions offering digital channels for social benefit transfers and remittances.

We also advocate for further lowering remittance costs especially by deploying digital technology. The Philippine Government, pre-pandemic, jumpstarted reforms in digital banking to lower remittance costs. Despite the high levels of remittance costs globally, the World Bank said the Philippines is an exception with its low remittance fees compared to other East Asian and Pacific countries. In this event we look forward to hearing other experiences and recommendations to promote better policies in favor of remittance senders and receivers everywhere, towards a more resilient remittance industry.

Thank you, and I wish all of us a meaningful International of Day Family Remittances!


[1] SG Policy Brief on COVID-19 and People on the Move, June 2020, page 5