May 30, 2006 (STAR) By Paolo Romero - The government aims to make the Philippines the retirement capital of Southeast Asia, earning $40 billion and generating four million jobs by 2015, a Malacaņang official said yesterday.

Secretary to the Cabinet Ricardo Saludo said the plan would be discussed during the Cabinet meeting today presided by President Arroyo where Philippine Retirement Agency chairman Edgar Aglipay would present a program to attract foreign retirees to the country.

"Our mission is to come up with a health retirement concept that effectively positions the Philippines as a global competitive player," Aglipay said in a statement issued by the Palace. "The global population will see an increasingly aging population mostly in developing countries. We have to take this challenge and seize this opportunity."

Central to the concept, he said, is the establishment of retirement villages that will provide housing services to foreign retirees as well as foreigners seeking medical treatment in the country.

Aglipay said he would personally ask the President to assume the position as Retirement Czar and make the National Retirement Program her flagship project.

He stressed the need for an executive order that would pool government resources to jumpstart the retirement program and provide funds to address infrastructure, power and water supply problems in the proposed retirement villages.

"This program is only one percent government initiative and 99 percent private initiative," Aglipay pointed out. He noted that the Subdivision and Housing Developers Association would take the lead in the construction of retirement villages with minimal government support.

He said the private sector will take care of the infrastructure and services that need to be prepared for the influx of the retiree market.

The retirement villages should have health and insurance facilities (24-hour clinics, hospitals, airlift ambulances), 24-hour security arrangements as well as recreational, cultural and educational and travel and transportation services.

Aglipay said the dramatic shift in selected countries demographics in the near future could bring in at least 859,000 foreign retiree arrivals to the Philippines. This number, he said, represents only less than one percent of the 869.1 million projected retirees the developed world will produce between 2006 and 2015.

The local retirement industry is expecting at least a million retirees from Asia (Korea, Japan, China, Taiwan), the United States, Canada and European countries and balikbayans.

He said prospective retirement hotspots have been identified in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. These include Fort Bonifacio, Makati, Metro Clark, Metro Subic, Baguio, Tagaytay, Batangas, Laguna, Cavite, Cebu, Bohol, Bacolod, Davao and Cagayan de Oro.

Aglipay said with the construction of retirement villages, Filipino nurses no longer need to leave the country to seek higher pay abroad.

"This could solve the brain drain plaguing the nursing and medical profession," he said.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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