ROADMAP IN MAKING THE PHILIPPINES AS TOP RETIREMENT AND HEALTHCARE DESTINATION IN ASIA

“Caring for retirees is more fun in the Philippines!” Thus, said Dr. Marc Evans Abat, giving encouragement that the Philippines can indeed become a top retirement destination.

Dr. Abat is one of the speakers during the 2nd Philippine Retirement and Healthcare Summit held at Dusit Thani Hotel last June 26, 2012 where top professionals in healthcare and wellness, real estate, retirees and investors, tourism and hospitality, hotels and resorts, government and NGOs, finance and investment, marketing and advertising, and retirement village operators and investors gathered to discuss the Philippine healthcare initiative and how they can help in making the Philippines a top retirement destination in Asia.

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The speakers during the forum:Mr. Joao Lucas, General Manager of Lucas Consultants; Mr. Rene Fritschi, Managing Director of RPG-Hospitality Consulting; Dr. Herfried Kohl, VP Accredited System Certification; Mr. Veredigno Atienza, General Manager of Philippine Retirement Authority; and Mr. Henry Schumacher, Chairman of Retirement and Healthcare Coalition.

In the past years, it became clear to the retirement and healthcare stakeholders that there’s a need for the Philippines to improve the quality of medical facilities and for the Philippine healthcare industries to acquire international standards to make the country a top retirement and healthcare destination in Asia.

According to Dr. Alfred Bengzon, President of The Medical City, the Philippines has been lagging behind its Southeast Asian neighbors, Malaysia and Thailand in terms of top destination havens while Mr. Veredigno Atienza, General Manager and Vice Chairman of Philippine Retirement Authority, said that the Philippines is shown to have a poor grades than the aggressive markets in retirement industry such as New Zealand, Mexico, Ecuador, Panama, and Costa Rica.

Mr. Atienza is referring to the criteria to the Annual Retirement Index of the International Living magazine: price and ease of buying real estate (15%), cost of living (20%), various benefits in entering and living in the said country (20%), healthcare and insurance (20%), literacy and cultural offerings (10%), safety and stability (5%), temperate weather and proneness to disaster (5%), transport and communications (5%).

For Dr. Bengzon, what the Philippines need to work is to have enabling environment and institutions, and global competitiveness.

Because 15% of the world’s population is a part of Baby Boomers and will increase to 25% in 2030, it will lead to Global Ageing and cause social and economic changes that will affect every country. But despite of this, it will create an opportunity for the Philippines.

One of the good news is that some of the Philippine healthcare industries already gained international accreditation.

“Around 45 Philippine hospitals are into the road to international accreditation,” says Mr. Joao Lucas, General Manager of Lucas Consultants based in Singapore. He also mentioned that Singapore is also a competing nation for top retirement and healthcare destination for Southeast Asia aside from Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia.

The position of the Philippines in the world map make it easier for the baby boomers to retire- tropical climate, less cost, many tourism landmarks, and improving quality healthcare.

Aside from the fact that some Philippine hospitals are into the road to international accreditation, Mr. Lucas said that the competitive advantage of the Philippines are hospitable lifestyle, speaks English fluently, favorable exchange rate, and competitive prices.

Dr. Bengzon also echoed that the Philippines have a lot to offer such as cost competitiveness, quality facilities, service orientation, English proficiency, and cultural sensitivity.

Mr. Henry Schumacher, Chairman of Retirement and Healthcare Coalition-Philippines, explained that the three factors- community, lifestyle, and healthcare- at an affordable cost are crucial and if addressed correctly, the Philippines will attract tourists, long time visitors, 2nd homeowners, and retirees.

The Philippines, according to Mr. Schumacher,  will need to do the minimum expectations that the retirees are looking for in a community: for retirement village, they should live close to other people with similar expectation and it should have restaurants, spa, medical assistance, and transportation; for residential community, it should have wellness center, gym, clinics and club center; should be in urban areas such as Quezon City, Makati, Alabang and Taguig; and for all options, need for service provider creating the community and providing assistance.

Mr. Lucas presented a stand out approach for the Filipino retirement and healthcare stockholders:

  • Identify your market segments
  • Assess your market segments
  • Design an innovative product/ service for your market segments (Be the apple of your retirement community)
  • Assess the competitive advantages of your product/ service
  • Create a Brand
  • Position your retirement community in the market
  • Ask for feedback from your market segments

Housing developers and operators stands out because they demonstrate proven excellence in concept, design, construction and superior customer service; and they develop economic and social sustainable communities.

Mr. Lucas also pointed out that the retirement community should offer a great location; great climate; beautiful tropical landscape with gorgeous views, easy access to the best dining, best shopping and best medical care; easy access to travel and leisure opportunities; easy access to beautiful beaches and theme parks; secure and safe; and most importantly, Filipino touch and lifestyle.

Mr. Atienza proposed the need for a national integrated retirement and aging (NIRA) for the purpose of making the Philippine society an age-friendly and aging-friendly at all levels of the society.

Government bodies that work with retirees, seniors, and elderly must bond together in one Council on Retirement and Aging (CORA) to make NIRA work. These are GSIS for government retirees, OWWA for overseas Filipinos, DSWD for indigent elderly, PHILHEALTH for ailing elderly, PRA for foreign retirees, seniors and elderly who do not have any agency to represent them.

Mr. Veredigno Atienza

The population of 7M senior citizens in the country can already be proof to validate CORA and NIRA.

In order to make CORA accessible to every barangay, it must have a level that is equivalent to parish and barangay levels, which will be called as Parish and Barangay Retirement and Aging Program (PBRA). It will be under the supervision of parishes, dioceses, barangays, and LGU’s.

Local Integrated Retirement Area (LIRA), a concept which was formed during the term of former PRA Chair, Gen. Edgar Aglipay, will secure the cooperation of the LGUs and elites in the cities that were labeled as priority retirement areas.

In the CORA/ NIRA framework, LIRA can be expanded to formally include the age- and aging- friendliness agenda, and can be applied to all localities that wish to promote retirement and age friendliness.

“In conclusion, we must act on the belief that it takes a country to accomplish these objectives,” Mr. Atienza said. “The Philippines is not the only show in town.  How we act in the middle of these will determine the extent of our country’s success in the retirement migration.”

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