Group Launches Remittances Platform, Money For Development Program

MANILA–A newly set-up office here by a US-based remittances-for-development group has paved the way for the starting of a remittances platform catering to Filipinos in the United States and Japan, as well as jump starting a remittances investment program for the Philippines.

The Oakland, California-headquartered Transnational Institute for Grassroots Research and Action (TIGRA)  forged an agreement with the Microfinance International Corporation (MFIC), a financial services company based in Washington, DC, to offer money transfer and telecommunications services.

But even before the TIGRA-MFIC partnership was announced to the press recently, TIGRA set up its Philippine office late September to operationalize not just the partnership but its Remit 4 Change program.

Remit 4 Change, explains TIGRA’s Filipino head Francis Calpotura, is a “global effort setting pro-migrant standards in the worldwide remittance industry”.

The scheme of Remit 4 Change is that TIGRA partners with identified remittance companies that have agreed to give remitters fair remittance charges, transparency in the pricing of remittance charges and services, and the funneling of remittance charges to a community reinvestment fund that will be funding projects in the origin countries of overseas migrants such as the Philippines.

Among the early beneficiaries of Remit 4 Change funds are the Unlad Kabayan Migrant Services Foundation and the Batis Center for Women, two non-government groups working for the overseas Filipinos sector focusing on temporary migrant workers.

The partnership with MFIC will see the corporation join TIGRA’s Remit 4 Change program since, the TIGRA media release noted, TIGRA and MFIC “will leverage global resources to increase investments in communities impacted by migration”.

The Remit 4 Change program is expected to serve about 100,000 Filipino emigrants to the United States, Canada, and Japan each year.

As well, MFIC becomes the sixth accredited remittance company of TIGRA’s Remit 4 change program. The other are Nexxo Financial Corp. (targeting Latino migrants), ATMCASH (which serves over-100 countries), Community Financial Resources, and Agilivant Technologies.

TIGRA will promote these remittance providers to its network of over-1,400 migrant organizations of Asian, Latino and African lineage.

In the Philippines, TIGRA has forged a partnership agreement with the government-run Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO), chaired by Imelda Nicolas.

CFO is currently operating the Overseas Filipinos’ Remittances for Development (OFs-RED) that aims to leverage collective remittances of overseas Filipinos who are from the province of Ilocos Norte and the City of Taguig (Metro Manila).

OFs-RED was funded by the Western Union Foundation and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), with CFO and the National Economic and Development Authority co-implementing the project.

Just today, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas announced that January-to-September remittances from overseas Filipinos have reached US$14.75 billion.

However, migration analysts think the Philippines has yet to harness –on a massive scale– these billion-dollar remittances for “development” in forms such as enterprises that generate local jobs, savings, and investments in low-to-high-risk financial instruments.

Some migrant civil society organizations are also hoping these money from abroad will be invested in rural communities, the origin birthplaces of overseas Filipinos.

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