Trade chief bats for PH as healthcare industry hub amid pandemic

Bruce Rodriguez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 30 2020 05:53 PM

DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez . George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News file photo

MANILA - Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said the Philippines can be a hub for the healthcare manufacturing and services industries at a gathering of senior global business and government leaders. 

At the opening session of the Horasis Asia Virtual Meeting 2020, Lopez said the country has begun shifting its economic priorities towards the healthcare sector after the pandemic forced some of the country's big businesses to pivot their operations to products and services urgently needed during the health crisis.

"Moving forward, definitely, healthcare industry and then health-related services in the Philippines will really be highlighted and I guess moving forward that would be one of the priorities and has been given an identification of priority industries," Lopez said.

The Philippines entered the pandemic with zero production capacity for coverall personal protective equipment, and very limited capacity to produce medical masks, Lopez said. 

But in just six months the country can now produce 3 million coveralls monthly.

"Even medical-grade masks. We only had one manufacturer before, an exporter, which we did not impose export restrictions on, we allowed them to export despite the need for medical-grade mask. But now there are two million and we're asking other companies to open and operate medical-grade masks," Lopez said.

He added the Philippoines can now deliver over 60 million medical masks a month.

Likewise, Lopez touted the Philippines a key supplier of healthcare workers around the world. 

"We continue to churn out (doctors and nurses), and we have a lot of graduates in this field so this will certainly be the way moving forward."

He also mentioned the prospects of medical tourism in the Philippines.

"In the field of healthcare, certainly medical tourism has now increased its prominence and it's where the Philippines can have a good niche moving forward," Lopez said.

The Philippine trade chief also made a push for more trade deals with economies not part of the historic Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) which was recently signed. 

He said Manila is now eyeing to pursue free trade agreements with countries in Europe as well as other Asian economies not party to the deal.

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