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News 12/6

Foreign Chambers Form Firm to Promote the Philippine Retirement Industry

Given upbeat talk on the retirement business as possible niche for the Philippines, foreign business chambers are getting on the bandwagon by forming
a non-stock company to promote the country's attractions. The American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Inc. (AmCham), European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Inc. (ECCP), Korean Chamber of Commerce, and the Japanese Chamber of Commerce have secured Securities and Exchange Commission approval to form International Chambers of Commerce Retirement & Healthcare Coalition, Inc. The firm, according to its Articles of Incorporation, will "initiate, encourage and establish points of cooperation and joint collaboration" with the government and other sectors of society towards undertaking programs and policies that will "Promote the country's competitiveness in attracting foreign retirees and enhance inward remittance of foreign exchange." It aims to "stimulate awareness and encourage participation" in the development of retirement communities, medical centers and hospitals, leisure projects, vacation resorts, condotels, serviced apartments, and condominiums that all "incorporate the health and wellness requirements responsive to the geriatric needs of foreign retirees who choose to spend and enjoy their years in the Philippines."

The incorporators also include AmCham executive director Robert M. Sears, ECCP Executive Vice President Henry I. Schumacher, Nobuo Fujii, Jaejung Jang and Virgilio D. C.Herce. "This initiative of four chambers is to make sure that we promote the Philippines as a retirement and healthcare haven. It is a commitment to the international community. It is a demonstration of our long-term commitment", Mr. Schumacher said in an interview. The firm will "encourage and liaise" with registered operators of retirement facilities, leisure resort destinations, condominium and housing developers, hospitals, health insurance, transport and travel services, caregiving training schools, health maintenance organizations, financial institutions and other service providers nationwide. "[It will] undertake continuing research and gathering of data relevant to the development of this sector, including government regulations, bilateral issues between the Philippines and target countries, new products and technology, etc. and disseminating the information through circulars, newsletters, exhibits, seminars and workshops," it said.

It plans to acquire, accept donations, purchase, own, hold, develop, lease, mortgage, pledge, exchange, sell, transfer or invest, deal in or trade, real and personal property of every kind and description as may be necessary. The four organizations contributed to the initial capital of the corporation. Mr. Schumacher said the group is pushing for a long-staying program, which the Philippines does not have yet, as this will "encourage people to stay here for three to four months and test the market. In order to move forward, the Philippines has to have a long-staying visa program. We are in discussion with the Philippine Retirement Authority and Bureau of Immigration. Everybody is willing to move ahead but we have to find a mechanism that long-term visa will not be abused. We are still looking at procedures," he said. "Our recommendation is to allow foreigners interested in testing the market to come to the Philippines for three to four months and escape winter and realize this is the place to retire." He also said the firm plans to have a menu of serviced apartments and condominiums. The group is still on a lookout for location but Mr. Schumacher said Cebu is a "very good location, while Tagaytay, Clark and Subic have potentials." PRA Chairman Edgar B. Aglipay has previously said that the Philippines was targeting about 1.7 million Filipino- Americans who are expected to retire by 2015.