Afab eyes investments in medical tourism

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MARIVELES, Bataan—The Authority of the Freeport Area of Bataan (Afab) is looking to attract investments in medical tourism at the free-port zone here, intending to capitalize on its natural environment conducive to healing and the growing health facilities in the area.

Afab Chairman Emmanuel Pineda said the Freeport Area of Bataan (FAB) is now one of the best zones in the country for the development of the health-care industry.

“Health care presents an opportunity for ecozones, like the FAB, where the medical-tourism angle can be built on,” he said.

“In particular, given that a sizable bulk of health-care costs is for rehabilitation and not just operation, rehabilitation can be done in the FAB, even when the latter is done in Manila,” the chairman said, noting the free port’s nice beaches, clean air and lower costs would be attractive to the foreign market.

“Foreign firms can also manufacture health-care equipment in the FAB,” he said.

Pineda made the statement after noting medical tourism is poised to continue growing globally in the next few years.

He said while medical tourism is still an infant industry in the Philippines, the country can attract foreign investors engaged in health-related businesses.

The Philippines is recognized as one of Asia’s most advanced nations in the field of health care, with many leading hospitals in the country already accredited by international standardization organizations.

Pineda also noted recent projection has placed the Philippine medical tourism at more than a $3-billion industry by 2017, with an average of 200,000 foreign patients expected to come to the Philippines every year.

Pineda said this bodes well for the Bataan free port, as the Afab, in coordination with the provincial government of Bataan, is currently preparing to operate the first hospital in the Bataan free port with high-end medical equipment donated by GN Power Mariveles Coal Plant Ltd. Co. and the Philippine Minnesotan Medical Association.

“The first Mariveles Hospital will ensure the medical needs and requirements of potential, and existing investors in the FAB will be attended to,” Pineda said.

While the FAB has long been promoted as the fashion-manufacturing hub of the Philippines, it can also diversify to other industries, like medical tourism, he said.