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Crisis blamed as fewer seek retiree visas

Vol. XXII, No. 202 [ BusinessWorld Online ]

Monday, May 18, 2009 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES

BY JESSICA ANNE D. HERMOSA, Reporter


THE NUMBER of foreign retirees locating to the Philippines fell by nearly a third in the first quarter, a result officials said could be traced to the global downturn.

A total of 486 retirees and their dependents obtained special resident retirement visas from January to March, down by 29.46% from the same period last year, data from Philippine Retirement Authority (PRA) show.

These retirees — which the government looks to as a market that will generate jobs and economic activity — were mostly from developed countries hard hit by the downturn: South Korea, the United States, Japan, the United Kingdom, Australia and Germany.

For the period, however, China was the top source of retirees and while India rounded out the top 10, the data show.

"Probably their pension funds lost value and they need to work again," Ateneo de Manila University economist Fernando T. Aldaba said in a mobile "text" message late last week.

The state agency’s chair, Edgar B. Aglipay, yesterday said "It’s an expected reduction as our target markets experienced the economic crisis. But later on as we move towards the end of the year, we are confident we will get 4,000 [foreign retirees]."

"They will want to maximize the worth of their money and move to where there is a lower cost of living."

Retirement visa applications will likely pick up in the third and fourth quarters, Mr. Aglipay said.

The International Chambers of Commerce Retirement & Healthcare Coalition, for its part, recommended that government strategies used to attract foreign retirees be updated.

"What is required is a marketing plan that is adjusted to the realities of the second half of 2008," coalition head Henry J. Schumacher said in a telephone interview late last week.

"People have lost money around the world and will have to make a decision," he added.

Mr. Schumacher also renewed calls for the government to work with the private sector in building needed infrastructure such as retirement villages and airport roads.

"I personally hope that with the President signing the tourism bill which transfers the PRA to the Tourism department [from the Trade department], we can see a much coordinated marketing plan," Mr. Schumacher said.

Asked to comment, Tourism Secretary Joseph "Ace" H. Durano said in a text message: "As an intermediate strategy, we are now positioning the Philippines as a destination for vacation home investments under our ’Live Your Dreams’ campaign."

Last year, the number of foreign retirees entering the country dropped by 8.5% to 2,396 retirees versus in 2007.

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