BOO CHANCO: FIL-AM EXPATS MOBILIZED FOR HELP

MANILA, December 8, 2003  (STAR) DEMAND AND SUPPLY By Boo Chanco - One major factor in India’s success in IT outsour-cing is the seemingly systematic way by which Indian professionals abroad look for business they can bring back to India. Indian professionals use their network of high level contacts in American business and industry to get jobs that could be done by lower cost but equally capable high tech workers in Bangalore.

It is with this thought in mind that I welcome the convention of Filipino American professionals being organized by Alex Esclamado and Mina Gabor starting Monday next week at the PICC. Called the Second Global Filipino Networking Convention, the gathering will be an attempt to organize overseas Pinoys to come to the aid of this country on a more systematic level.

In a recent meeting I attended with Mina, Dong Puno, Maloli Manalastas and Ces Drilon of ABS-CBN, I saw the point of Dong about the need to focus whatever help they intend to give on the most basic needs of common Pinoys. We agreed that these areas are health care and education.

The problem we have today with help coming from our expat communities is the lack of coordination. Medical missions from abroad come here and perform surgery or other procedures but unless they have coordinated with local doctors, the patient suffers from absence of follow up medical care after the expat doctors go home.

Some well off Pinoy expat doctors also try to bring medical equipment here. But unless they coordinate with a receiving hospital, the equipment just sits forever in a Customs warehouse. Yet, we can certainly use modern medical equipment. That’s the only way the ordinary Pinoy can get good health care.

Dong Puno related the story of a child who needed sophisticated liver surgery. Dong said they had to raise money to bring the child to Kaoshiung in Taiwan for the operation. When they got there, the doctor who treated the patient was a Filipino who is connected with the Philippine General Hospital but can’t do the procedure at PGH for lack of facilities.

Yet, Dong pointed out, when he asked the doctor how much is needed to equip PGH for the procedure, the figure quoted was just P10 million. That’s not a big amount in dollar terms and certainly within the reach of a community of expats.

Besides, we should really be working to improve our medical capability in the same manner that Singapore and Thailand have. They provide good enough health care in both countries to earn foreign exchange from visitors to go there precisely to have surgery or get some treatment that is prohibitively expensive in their home countries. We should be able to do that too as a Pinoy investment banker in California tells us in his letter to this column today.

Much could also be done in education. Pinoy communities abroad can adopt schools, even special classes for gifted but poor children, following the lines of Ayala’s Centex, so that native talent would not be wasted by the inadequate public school system. We need more than the two Centex classrooms now in operation.

Expat communities could also work with the Knowledge Channel Foundation to adopt specific public schools so that more schools could be cabled. That would enable pupils there to enjoy the benefits of educational television, an effective supplement to augment the inadequacies of the local teaching staff.

Pinoys lucky enough to have studied in Ivy League business schools and to have worked in world class investment banks should also start using their network of business contacts to help local entrepreneurs. In fact, even resident Ivy leaguers may want to do more than have their usual meetings of the Harvard Club or Wharton or Stanford and put their contacts and resources at work to boost the ability of local businesses to attract customers and investors. That’s what the Indian professionals have been doing to help India and with great success.

Hopefully, this conference being organized by Alex Esclamado and Mina Gabor next week will give birth to a permanent mechanism that will serve as some kind of clearing house for expat communities who want to help. Frankly, I am not too hopeful. Looking at their program agenda, the worse thing that could happen is for this networking convention to become another talkfest. The time has come to stop delivering speeches and start working. Otherwise, what’s the point? World Class Health Care

This is the second part of the letter of California-based Pinoy investment banker Arturo Reyes who reacted to last Wednesday’s column on how India won world respect in IT. Mr. Reyes suggests that we look into the potentials of healthcare.

While the Philippines may have missed out on the outsourcing wave, there are still opportunities to look forward to. Healthcare, for example, is becoming a major issue in first world countries. Rising costs, to the frustration of many aging Americans, has forced insurance companies to limit the coverage of their policies.

Insurance companies can provide the option to acquire wider medical coverage if existing policy holders choose to seek treatment in low cost countries like the Philippines, thereby saving companies and policy holders millions of dollars in medical expenses.

A large pool of skilled health care professionals trained in excellent schools like UST or UERM, existing world class medical facilities such as St. Luke’s and Asian Hospital and an excellent location supported by direct flights to and from the US and Canadian West Coast give our country a distinct advantage.

However, these resources will be all for naught if not supported by the kind of strategy and execution that India used to succeed in business services. I wonder if there are Filipinos exploring these opportunities with the CEOs of AIG or MetLife. I wonder also if our legislators are studying our medical malpractice laws to make sure that these laws address the concerns of international patients. If not, then we can look forward to missing this next big opportunity and watch another country benefit from its rewards. Still On India

I also received this e-mail from Dr. Norberto M. Boceta also of California. Dr. Boceta was former deputy administrator, Philippine Coconut Authority & former executive director, Asian & Pacific Coconut Community.

I fully agree with you about the IT development in India, most specifically, Bangalore, the IT capital of India.

I was in Bangalore for one week in 2001 and three weeks in Chennai in 2000, and from the talks I had with professionals, civic and government leaders there, India definitely has specific and realistic plan on IT development. In fact, the country attracts big corporations from the United States. The magnet that attracts big outfits to locate operations in India is its cheap labor and highly skilled computer operators.

It is really a good idea for the Filipino business community to bring Presidential contenders to Bangalore so that they will understand what the Philippines is sorely missing.

More power to you.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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