Remittances from Filipinos working and living abroad grew faster than expected in 2013, hitting a new record high of 22.76 billion USD, despite continued weakness of the global economy, the Central Bank of Philippines (BSP) reported.

Last year’s figure represented a growth rate of 6.4 percent from a year ago, surpassing the BSP’s 5-percent growth target. It also accounted for 8.4 percent of the country’s total GDP for 2013.

In December alone, cash remittances rose by 9.1 percent year-on-year to a record 2.2 billion USD.

The BSP said cash transfers from land-based workers, which made up 77.1 percent of total remittances, grew 6 percent in 2013 while those from sea-based workers were up 7.9 percent.

Cash remittances largely came from the United States , Saudi Arabia , the United Kingdom , the United Arab Emirates , Singapore , Canada , and Japan .

The BSP said that remittances remained robust on the back of strong demand for skilled Filipino manpower abroad, particularly in the Middle East .

Citing data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), the central bank said 1.8 million Filipino workers were sent abroad in 2013.

POEA noted that more than 793,400 job orders were approved last year, 40.9 percent of which were for services, production, and technical work.

These job orders were intended for the manpower requirements of Saudi Arabia , the United Arab Emirates , Kuwait , Taiwan and Hong Kong ( China ), and Qatar , the BSP said.

Apart from the sustained demand for Filipino labour, the BSP said, the ever-expanding global presence of local banks and other financial institutions through the establishment of new offices or tie-ups with foreign partners has made it easier for Filipinos to send money home safely.

By the end of December 2013, there were more than 4,700 transaction locations of Philippine commercial banks’ tie-ups, remittance centres and correspondent bank branches and representative offices in other countries, the BSP said.-VNA