Philippines - mixing business and pleasure - Business Works

Philippines - mixing business and pleasure


R emarkable growth in IT and business support, health and wellness, retirement, and tourism are drawing in new foreign investments, writes Rosario Maria Otto.

As the global economy makes a rebound in 2010, the upturn is gradual for the Philippines. In terms of trade, the start of the year revealed an export surge in shipments of electronic products, the country’s top export earner. Other major Philippine exports are catching up and are undergoing considerable expansion.

Key developments in infrastructure signal the onset of a thriving economy. Across the archipelago, more international airports, seaports, and expressways are being built to improve transportation links and support the increasing economic activity.

This is just a glimpse of the Philippines as an investment destination. There is every reason to go to the Philippines whether it is for a holiday or for doing business. With a distinct combination of the country’s top sectors, foreign investors might find themselves staying in the country longer than planned – perhaps even for good.

Redefining the state of Philippine outsourcing

The Philippines is steadily gaining its global reputation as an offshoring destination. Having come a long way from being a $24 million industry in 2001, the Philippine business process outsourcing sector now has a 442,000-strong workforce and revenues of up to $7.2 billion in 2009. These figures are growing exponentially as more firms choose the Philippines for its human capital requirement.

The success of IT and business support in the country is well recognized from the outside perspective. The Philippines once again received the Offshoring Destination of the Year Award in 2009 following its previous success in 2007. The award was given by the National Outsourcing Association, the only industry association of its kind in the United Kingdom.

Outsourcing industry

Filipino graduates are sought for voice capability because of their mastery of the English language and neutral accent. But in more recent years, business firms have come to rely on the country’s language diversity. The Philippines has a pool of fluent speakers in French, German, Mandarin, Korean and Japanese. This unique asset encouraged Bosch Group, a German-owned global industrial firm, to set up its Asia-Pacific communications hub in the Philippines.

Yet the Philippines is moving up in the BPO value chain from multilingual callers to knowledge workers. Higher segments of outsourcing services such as software development, animation, and engineering design are also building its presence in the country, giving it a hefty 15% share of the entire offshore BPO market.

Japanese electronics firm Nidec is setting up a facility in the Philippines to tap outstanding Filipino engineers, while Danish wind power solutions provider Vestas Wind Systems is doing the same for its IT support.

Among the reasons behind the success of Philippine outsourcing is the strong support it receives from the government and the private sector. Industry associations such as the Business Processing Association of the Philippines work closely with the Commission on Information and Communications Technology and the Department of Trade & Industry to provide a conducive business environment with clear policies.

Generous fiscal incentives such as income tax holiday for 4 to 8 years add to the attractiveness of doing business in the Philippines. Companies that set up their operations within IT Parks and economic zone locators benefit from additional incentives such as duty exemption on imported capital equipment and a special 5% tax rate after the lapse of the income tax holiday.

The government responds to the evolving demands of the industry. In November 2008, a law was passed providing for a Special Visa for Employment Generation (SVEG). This visa category entitles foreign nationals to stay in the Philippines indefinitely upon employing at least ten Filipinos in a lawful and sustainable enterprise, trade or industry. Multiple entry privileges are given with this special non-immigrant status.

At present, more than half of new job openings for global offshoring are in the Philippines, prompting a highly positive forecast for the country this year. The Philippine BPO sector may be generating $11 - $13 billion in revenues and employing over 1 million people in 2010.

Towards better health and a happy retirement

Shopping Mall

It is not only in IT and business support where the country makes its mark. Those seeking any and all types of medical care in the Philippines – from simple, non-invasive procedures to complex surgery – can find top-notch medical practitioners equipped with state-of-the-art facilities.

Filipino doctors study in Asia’s best medical schools. Many of them gained experience whilst in other parts of the globe.

Being a physician in the Philippines means completing four years of undergraduate studies, four years of medical school and a year of clinical internship before taking the licensure examination. It is followed by a three-or five-year postgraduate residency training in a specified clinical specialty and capped with a certifying examination by the appropriate medical specialty board. Various sub-specialties entail an additional two or three years. Basically, physicians undergo at least 10 years of medical education and training.

Filipinos in the health profession are not only competent but also compassionate, and they communicate in English perfectly well.

Their practice is supported by a network of public and private hospitals. Quezon City is poised to be the ‘Health & Wellness Capital’ of the country, having four state hospitals that are in proximity to one another – the Heart Center, Lung Center, National Kidney & Transplant Center, and East Avenue Hospital. Private hospitals like St Luke’s Medical Center carry their own fields of specialty such as neurology and neurosurgery.

Healthy eating

The Philippines being a health and wellness destination, its hospitals are sought for non-invasive procedures from executive check-ups to chemotherapy. Medical tourists from other countries like the US come here to avail of services that are commonly excluded from private insurance health plans. Such exclusions involve chronic conditions such as diabetes, as well as most types of dentistry and cosmetic surgery.

For less crucial health and wellness requirements, there are plenty of fitness centers, spa and massage clinics, and beauty and skin care establishments to choose from. All these can be found within the city walls, or in the midst of nature further out into the countryside. Needless to say, there is something for everyone in this beautiful country.

It is no surprise that the retiring and the retired are choosing the Philippines as an alternative and affordable place to spend their retirement days.

Government support is just as apparent in the retirement sector. The Philippines offers incentives for retirees and imposes fewer restrictions than other Southeast Asian countries. The Special Resident Retiree’s Visa (SRRV) allows foreigners to stay in the country permanently and vests numerous privileges such as operating a business in the Philippines or simply owning proprietary golf shares.

Baguio, Clark, Subic, Metro Manila, Tagaytay, Cebu, and Davao are priority areas for retirement facilities. These developments go hand in hand with the growth of the tourism sector and the consequent increase in local employment for Filipinos.

A paradise beckons

Best of all, the natural beauty of the Philippine islands is reason enough to pay a visit.


Constantly dubbed as a hidden gem by travel writers, the country is now getting a well deserved exposure in the global tourism market. The Philippines is listed among the National Geographic‘s 25 Best New Trips for 2010. This prominence is bolstered by other international publications that came out with special features on the Philippines as a tourism destination.

Cebu remains the top choice for most tourists. The vibrant city – along with other popular destinations such as Camiguin, Siargao, and Palawan – is situated in what is called the Central Philippines super-region which accounts for half of the country’s tourism industry.

Foreign investments are gradually pouring in as a result of the good publicity. Among the latest of these is an $80-million hotel resort project by a Russian developer that is eyeing a 36-hectare property in Mactan island.

All this translates to more tourist arrivals, creation of employment opportunities for Filipinos, good business for local and foreign firms, and a long-lasting business cooperation between the government and the private sector.

For more information on doing business in the Philippines contact:
Philippine Trade and Investment Center - London

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