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    Medical-tourism boom triggers investments in Subic

    By Robert Gonzaga

    SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—At a forum with members of Filipino and Taiwanese business councils at the Formosa Hall of Subic Bay Gateway Park (SBGP), Dr. Raymond Ricardo, president and chief executive officer of TotalMED, said the medical-tourism market in Subic and Clark, has “huge potential.”

    TotalMED operates several health-care centers in the country, specializing in ambulatory hospitals and allied medical education. To capitalize on the global trend of medical tourism, Dr. Ricardo has forged a partnership to build a company with a Taiwanese firm, a health-care products manufacturer, MedTecs Corp., which is located at the SBGP (formerly Subic Bay Industrial Park).

    Their common goal is to establish a world-class medical center patterned after Bangkok’s Bumrungrad International, the world’s leading one-stop center in medical tourism. The growing medical-tourism industry is also being encouraged by the Philippine government because of its high income-generating potential. In 2006 it was estimated that the total revenue generated by medical tourism in Asia amounted to $2.5 billion. This is expected to grow to $4.5 billion in 2012.

    This potential is prompting the scramble to be the first movers in the medical-tourism market, especially in Subic and Clark, which is already a haven for investors from all over the country and the world.

    In the combined Subic and Clark areas alone, there are around 5,000 US military veterans and their dependents, plus around 100,000 ecozone employees and dependents of business locators.

    The potential local market also includes a quarter of the Philippine population that lives north of Manila, where there are few hospitals equipped with magnetic resonance imaging, computerized tomography scan, X-ray and medical laboratories.

    “These are only the local markets,” Dr. Ricardo said, pointing out that the bigger potential lies in foreign patients who would travel to the country to avail themselves of world-class health services at cheaper costs.

    This phenomenon Ricardo added, is bringing some 250,000 medical tourists to Singapore each year, 500,000 to India, and about 1 million to Thailand. The combined earnings of India and Thailand in medical tourism reach $1 billion annually, he said.

    “We see Subic as the next medical-tourism destination in Asia in the next few years,” declared Dr. Ricardo, as he briefed members of Filipino and Taiwanese business councils at the Formosa Hall. “It’s all here in Subic—the location is great, the ambiance is good, and the facilities are incredible,” Ricardo said.

    To be able to put up a world-class medical tourism facility here, the two companies plan to convert MedTecs’ existing building into a four-story complex of medical offices, assisted living facilities, and a nursing school with a total floor area of 19,800 sq m.

    The project, Ricardo said, will capitalize on the potentials of Subic for medical tourism, as well as the potential local market. It will also provide a venue for local doctors and medical personnel to practice in a world-class facility, and give local health providers an opportunity to participate in the growing medical-tourism industry.

    Meanwhile, Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Administrator Armand Arreza, who joined the forum, said the medical-tourism industry, which has an annual growth rate of 20 percent to 30 percent, “presents a big opportunity for Subic Bay because of its excellent natural environment that is conducive to healing.”

    “Only a few destinations in the country can compare to Subic Bay, because we also have here a world-class international airport,” Arreza said.

    “Next year the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway will be finished and that will make Subic just 30 minutes away from Clark, which also has an airport,” he added.

    Arreza said the SBMA is now encouraging high-value activities among companies in Subic, and has been shifting its focus from the low-cost manufacturing model. “Medical tourism is one of the areas wherein the Philippines and Taiwan can work very well together and closely collaborate with,” Arreza added.



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