Mailing Back Pesos and Politics: The Relational Dynamic of Remittances and the Impacts on Recipients’ Political Behaviour in the Philippines

Phebe M. Ferrer, Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada


Theorizing Filipinx Diaspora Mobilities, Circulations, and Entanglements


Migrant remittances are typically conceptualized in their macro-level impacts on development and democratization in the migrant’s home country. Micro-level impacts, such as on the sender and recipient, are missed in this literature. In this paper, I draw on the concept of “social remittances” (Levitt 1998) to emphasize the inherent relational dynamic of remittances, and how these signify distant relationships that are created and maintained through monetary transfers between the sender and recipient. I therefore theorize remittances primarily as a relationship between the sender and recipient, one where the sender can shift the latter’s political behaviour and choices. I analyze the relational dynamic of remittances in the context of Filipino migration, specifically for recipients in the Ilocos Region of the Philippines. I conducted a quantitative analysis of a 2016 survey taken in Ilocos, which encompasses 3,740 respondents across 158 barangays. My analysis focuses on three areas—access to government-provided services, political networks and participation, and voting behaviour—and my initial findings show a mix of impacts on recipients’ political behaviour. First, my findings strongly indicate that while remittance recipients are less likely to access government services, their perception of ease in accessing these services increases. Recipients are also shown to be more likely to have a member of their household in office as well as have a direct connection to the local mayor. Finally, my analysis shows that remittance recipients weigh the opinion of family relatives and friends more heavily in their voting decisions compared to non-recipient respondents.

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CCSEAS Conference 2021 |