MANILA – Philippines is more than ready to take the global stage anew with the full Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) integration by 2016, a Cabinet member said.

Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez said Manila’s hosting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) 2015 Summit has not only benefited the local tourism industry, but also prepared the country for economic integration.

He said that from the increased tourist arrivals and domestic travels during the APEC week, to world leaders experiencing the hospitality of Filipinos, the event served like “an intensive one-year training program” for the people from various local agencies.

“One of the primary features of ASEAN integration is setting standards. And when you relate it to APEC, APEC is a standard-setting event. It really made us kind of sure of our gains, so to speak,” Jimenez said in an interview on Mornings @ ANC.

“It’s much easier for Filipinos to put their game face on right now because we are not pretending anymore, we’ve actually done it,” he added.

The tourism chief defined the hosting of APEC as an event of 47 different meetings across 14 months which involved various places in the Philippines; including Bataan, Legazpi, Cebu, Boracay, Tagaytay, Iloilo, and the culmination in Manila.

He said the hosting of APEC made a tremendous impact on the country’s tourism campaign especially in the provinces, with heads of economies and ministers witnessing the beauty of the Philippines.

Jimenez even attributed the demand for better local airports to the improving tourism campaign of the government.

“The only reason we’re talking about better airports now is that I think I have crowded our airports, tourism has crowded our airports,” he said.

Aware of the shortfalls in infrastructure and transportation system, Jimenez assured that the government is already working on facilities to improve the travel experience for local and foreign tourists.

“Decisions to fix that have already been made, it’s just that it takes little more time for cement to dry, so to speak,” he said.

Jimenez also highlighted Filipinos’ strong hosting skills, such as good command of English and hospitality, as the Philippines’ edge over other countries when it comes to global events.

“Now in terms of standards, the ASEAN integration is very good for the Philippines because in many respects we are already the standard. Remember if you go to a country for Singapore, the standard for hospitality is actually set by Filipinos because over 40 percent of the service business in the hospitality industry in Singapore is actually run by Filipinos,” he said.

“Integration makes the Filipino standard the standard. And the challenge for us is to how to become better than ourselves. And APEC was a very good exercise on that,” he added.

With the new campaign dubbed as “Visit the Philippines Again 2016,” Jimenez said people can expect a more competitive local tourism drive by giving travelers reasons to come back to the country as a destination.

“It is the demand that creates the resources. So I have to keep the demand up and that means a sustained tourism marketing campaign. Because that demand forces the system to cope with the influx,” he said.

In addition, Jimenez said among major events to watch out for early next year is the ASEAN Tourism Summit at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in January, Routes Asia 2016 in February, and Madrid Fusion Manila in April.

from Philippine Daily Inquirer correspondent, Doris Dumlao-Abadilla

hospital p

Manny Villar invests in Healthcare

GROUP PLANS 14 HOSPITALS IN NEXT 5 YEARS

The Villar group is venturing into the healthcare business to complement its nationwide property development footprint.The group plans to build 14 hospitals with a combined capacity of 3,000 beds over the next five years under the brand “Vitacare,” beginning with what is envisioned to be the flagship hospital to be located in Vista City project in Daang Hari.Businessman Manuel Villar Jr. told reporters at the sidelines of the recent opening of homebuilder store All Home in Quezon City that while the group was now present in 95 cities and municipalities across the country, there were some services lacking in these areas such as schools, hotels and hospitals.As such, Villar said the group had decided to foray—through a privately held unit—into the hospital business using a portion of the group’s existing landbank.For the first hospital that will be put up in Daang Hari, Villar said the group had entered into a partnership with the Unimed group of doctors. The doctors will manage the hospitals but the Villar group will have a majority stake in each of them.It was also possible for the group to partner with different groups of doctors in various locations, Villar said.The first hospital will be named Vitacare Unimed Hospital and Medical Center. Construction will start in May 2016 and the first phase of development, which will open 100 beds, is expected to be finished in two years.The Villar group has earmarked P500 million for the first phase development of the hospital in Daang Hari. For the second phase of development, 300 new beds are expected to be added to the hospital.

“We want Vista City to have the biggest (hospital in the chain),” Villar said.

The rollout of the next hospitals was not expected to be difficult, Villar said, noting that the group had already identified the suitable landbank.

Asked for the rationale of building new hospitals from scratch, Villar said this would provide synergies with existing developments of Vista Land. “We can move very quickly and we can put in the land as equity. By 2016, we should already be launching the second and the third hospitals,” he said.

The strategy will be to find a group of doctors to team up with. “We provide the land and the market and the financial expertise and they will run the operations,” he said.

Other possible areas for expansion for the Villars’ upcoming Vitacare hospital chain are Parañaque (Lake Front), Bataan (Balanga), Bulacan (Malolos and San Jose del Monte), Cavite (General Trias and Tanza) , Batangas (Santo Tomas), Pampanga (San Fernando), Naga (Camarines sur), Cebu (Talisay), Iloilo (Boton), Davao and Cagayan de oro.

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Robert G. Sarmiento Properties
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