Davao pushed as medical tourism hub

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 28 May) – The local government has pushed to develop the potential of the city as a medical tourism hub by building more specialized medical facilities like cancer centers and retirement villages.

“The city provides incentives for these types of investments. Health and wellness facilities include hospitals, research and development facilities and retirement villages as preferred investment sub-activities,” Davao City Investment Promotions Center head Lemuel Ortonio said on Monday.

Davao City Hall. June 2017 photo from the City Government of Davao FB page

City Tourism head Generose Tecson said the city has a potential because it has several professionals in the medical field that are offering more competitive rates than those in Manila and Cebu while hospital fees are relatively lower.

In an interview during the 5th general membership meeting of the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. at Ritz Hotel on Friday, Roberto Alabado, director for Medical Travel and Wellness Tourism at the Department of Tourism, said the city has internationally renowned medical schools and universities producing doctors, dentists, nurses, and related professionals.

Alabado discussed the city’s potential for medical tourism because there are many doctors and nurses who have international training and exposure, and it has the natural setting for wellness resorts such as mountains and beaches.

He said the Department of Tourism (DOT) has pushed for a six-month medical visa as the agency will start to promote the Philippines as medical travel and wellness destination.

He said the Philippines has huge potential for medical tourism, considering the number of hospitals with topnotch facilities and the growing number of highly skilled human resources in the medical field.

He said the country has the key ingredients to be the next medical tourism destination in the world, as Filipinos are known for their innate skills and attitude to take care of their clients and their ability to integrate wellness, medicine, and tourism.

He said the Interagency Committee on Medical Travel and Wellness Tourism, consisting of the Department of Health, Board of Investments, Department of Foreign Affairs, and DOT, has just started the discussion on the possibility of granting medical visas to foreigners.

Medical visas will be issued to tourists who will come to the Philippines to seek medical treatment and medical surgery, he said.

The official said the top markets of the Philippines for medical tourism are US, Canada, Indonesia, Pacific island nations, Middle East and Australia.

He claimed the Philippines is receiving several clients from the Middle East for executive checkups while the agency partners with Philippine Airlines (PAL).

Alabado said they are also bringing insurance companies and medical practitioners from Papua New Guinea, which lacks hospitals, to visit hospitals here.

He said PAL services direct flights between Manila and Papua New Guinea.

“PAL right now is in partnership with DOT because Papua New Guinea, they don’t have enough hospitals, they want to access Manila hospitals. We want PAL to bring travelers to Philippines via medical tourism,” he added.

He said the Philippines is competing with its neighbors for these markets such as Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and Taiwan but they are doing their best to attract more visitors to explore the capabilities of the hospitals in the Philippines.

The Filipino doctors, many of whom studied abroad, are known for their expertise in cardiology, minimally invasive surgery, orthopedic, ophthalmology, aesthetic, cosmetics, cancer, and cancer care, he said. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)