FILIPINO banks and deposit-taking companies in Hong Kong hope to form a Philippine Bankers Association to help better protect and manage the growing tide of domestic helpers' savings being remitted back home. Alarm bells have been ringing in Hong Kong's Filipino community over the past year after a string of small remittance, lending and freight-forwarding companies have collapsed or closed, sometimes shutting down at little or no notice with domestic customers' money. At least two remittance firms are known to have closed this year, one in Central and another in Kowloon - the latest casualties in the highly competitive but fast growing money transfer business. With Hong Kong's transfer of sovereignty looming, and with many of 130,000 Filipino overseas contract workers have been keen to send their money back home, the volume of money being remitted between Hong Kong and the Philippines has rocketed. About US$103.1 million was sent from Hong Kong to the Philippines in the first half of this year, compared with $71.6 million for the whole of last year, according to the Philippine Central Bank. This comprised largely domestic helpers' earnings. The business is now large, yet the majority of the operators are small-time and do not appear to come under the jurisdiction of any of Hong Kong's financial regulatory bodies. When contacted, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, Securities and Futures Commission and Financial Services Branch all failed to claim responsibility. Aggrieved customers say by the time their complaints are filed with the police, Small Claims Tribunal or the Philippine Consulate, most culprits have fled Hong Kong or gone underground. It is a response to a growing need to disseminate information within the industry and among users of Philippine banks and deposit-taking companies in Hong Kong, said Art Quebal, senior vice-president of the Philippine National Bank, is leading a campaign to form a bankers' association. He says the main focus of the organisation would be encouraging savings and investments by Filipino overseas contract workers in preparation for their return to the Philippines. The association would actively promote formal remittance channels, especially since banks in the Philippines have dramatically accelerated their provision of such services by going online. By spreading information, the association hopes to deter 'unscrupulous' companies from preying on domestic helpers, Mr Quebal said. The association would hold monthly forums, with membership open to Filipino-owned financial institutions and their corporate clients. The group would also have a social side. The articles of association outlining objectives and goals have been finalised, Mr Quebal said. He added that the association would be registered as soon as the legalities are ironed out.