Press Releases Archived (March 2014)


The Philippines needs to boost its medical tourism industry to get a bigger share in the regional medical tourism market

Oscar Picazo, senior research consultant for health of state think-tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), underscores in a policy note that the Philippine medical tourism continues to get a miniscule share of the medical tourism market even if it offers better prices in surgical procedures than its Asian competitors.

According to Picazo, the Philippines is among the top 15 medical tourism destinations in 2010. The country is ranked 11th on medical tourism which has 80,000 medical tourists but tails behind Thailand (1st), Singapore (2nd), and Malaysia (5th).

Thailand has the topnotch position among the medical tourism destinations, with a total of 1.2 million medical tourists in 2010. Other ASEAN countries have shown exemplary performance, with Singapore having 600,000 and Malaysia with 350,000 medical tourists in the same year.

To improve the country's status, Picazo recommends the establishment of a coordinating body (council or board) among offices and agencies involved in the medical tourism industry. A marketing campaign for the 21 premier hospitals included under the Philippine Medical Tourism Program (PMTP) must also be crafted and implemented.

Attractive websites should also be developed to promote medical tourism instead of relying on less enticing news items and blogs. Medical facilities should also work toward international affiliations for quality assurance and vibrant medical campaign.

Although Long Stay Visitor Visa Extension (good for 36 months) has been introduced, Picazo urges local carriers (Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific) to develop medical airline packages so that more tourists will be enticed to visit the country. Strong ties between hospitals and international health insurance companies will also build a responsive and transparent pricing of medical services.

Inasmuch as there are many Filipino physicians who have foreign credentials, Picazo adds that Philippine hospitals should get accreditation from the Joint Commission International (JCI) as the country is still lagging behind in terms of JCI-accredited hospitals among its Asian competitors.

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"The voice of the people is the voice of God."

For a natural resource expert of the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), the people of Palawan, particularly those directly affected, should have a huge say on whether mining activities should continue in what is considered the countrys last frontier.

Researchers should investigate whether majority of the people of Palawan and majority of the people in the provinces mining areas are really against mining, said Dr. Danilo Israel, PIDS senior research fellow, during the seminar-forum titled The Philippine Mining and Minerals Industry: Development Issues and Recommendation for Research last January 27 at the Palawan State University (PSU) in Puerto Princesa City.

Israel pointed out that the mining sector in Palawan is hounded by issues of non-renewability, environmental protection, indigenous peoples rights, benefit-sharing, political wrangling, as well as minings impact on the provincial tourism industry. Empirical data will help the province shape its plan for the future of Palawan, the PIDS economist said.

He noted that the minerals industry has little value addition and tax revenues generated from mining and quarrying are low. Revenues from mining contributed only 0.66 percent to the total revenues of the government. Excise tax from mining contributed only 0.07 percent of the total excise tax collected by the government, Israel said before a packed audience at the PSU Hostel.

Data from the National Statistical Coordination Board showed that in terms of economic performance, mining and quarrying accounted for only 0.91 percent of the countrys gross domestic product (GDP) from 1998 to 2012. By employment, the industries share for the period 2011-2012 was at 0.42 percent, based on data from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau and the Department of Labor and Employment.
Gold contributed the most to metallic mineral production with an average share of 72.24 percent from 1998 to 2012, followed by nickel with 15.16 percent and copper with 11.27 percent. However, gold is being smuggled out by small-scale mining operators, with such activities increasing since 2011 when the national government imposed a 7 percent tax on gold sold to the Central Bank.

Thought-provoking views were expressed by forum participants representing the academe, local government agencies, civil society, and the business sector particularly mining companies. One of the discussants, Jose Bayani Baylon, vice-president for communications at Nickel Asia Corp./Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corp., suggested there was no need to choose between tourism and mining.

Palawans northern part, with its nice beaches, is ideal for eco-tourism, while the southern part has areas suitable for mining. Responsible mining is the key, he said, and this is something that large mining firms can do as they can be easily monitored by the provincial government. He also argued that large firms also pay taxes and take care of the environment as opposed to small-scale mining operations and smugglers. The problem is that taxes go to national agencies and not to the local governments hosting the mining areas, Baylon said.

Atty. Grizelda Mayo-Anda, executive director at the Environmental Legal Assistance Center, called for amendments to the mining law, arguing that the mining policy is structured to favor the requirements of the foreign market. Still, the government provides many fiscal incentives and other benefits to mining firms exploiting mineral and other resources.

She also stressed the need to look at abandoned mines. Aside from environmental and health risks, taxpayers are burdened as the government is footing the bill. The government loaned PHP 34.7 million from the World Bank for the rehabilitation of the Bagacay Mines in Bagacay, Samar. Government is paying the bill using taxpayers money now and also from the future generation the lawyer said.

Speaking for the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development, John Francisco, who serves as chief of the Environmentally Critical Areas Network Policy and Research Division, asked what could be the reason for the limited economic and fiscal contribution of mining and quarrying industries. It could be because of a limitation in the policy and development agenda on the part of the national government. One strategy is to pursue the value addition stages instead of being limited to the extraction process, he said.

Israel recommended further research on efficient and effective ways to address smuggling, how to raise tax revenues and achieve equitable sharing, and how to make small-scale mining more beneficial to operators and less damaging to the environment.
PIDS President Gilbert Llanto echoed this and called for an analytical framework that would assess minings costs and benefits.

This is not exact science. In quantifying cost, you only look at the economic benefit and cost and disregard the social cost which is very important to consider and in fact, a very challenging area of research. It is important to have a comprehensive framework of analysis that would lay down all the private and social benefits and costs of mining in Palawan. In the end, it is the polity who will make the decision, and the sharing of proceeds should be in favor of the people who live here, Llanto said.

PSU also became host to the 23rd PIDS Corner, which was inaugurated on the same day at the PSU main library. The PIDS Corner, one of the Institutes dissemination strategies, makes available for free to students, faculty, researchers, and local policymakers copies of PIDS publications such as books, policy notes, research papers, newsletters, and the peer-reviewed Philippine Journal of Development.#


As part of efforts to promote evidence-based policymaking, state think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) opened its 23rd PIDS Corner at the main library of the Palawan State University (PSU) in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, last January 27.

In his opening remarks, PIDS President Dr. Gilbert Llanto highlighted the significance of evidence-based studies, not just in economics, but in different aspects of development as well. Partnerships with state universities such as the PSU ``make these (studies) accessible, to most, if not to all, and [allow] us to be able to not only disseminate our policy studies but also interact with the academic community in the provinces.``

PSU President Dr. Jeter Sespee expressed his gratitude to PIDS. ``The PIDS corner will be an instrument in disseminating research findings to our students and colleagues, as well as other institutions that would like to make use of this corner,`` said Sespee.

The PIDS Corner is one of the Institute`s dissemination strategies, aiming to share its research outputs in the provinces. The sought-after knowledge resource makes available for free PIDS studies and publications to researchers, faculty, students, and local policymakers. These publications include books, policy notes, research papers, newsletters, and issues of the Philippine Journal of Development, the Institutes technical, peer reviewed journal. The first PIDS Corner was opened at the Bohol Provincial Library in 2006.

Llanto and Sespee signed a memorandum of agreement for the establishment of the 23rd PIDS Corner at PSU, with Dr. Sheila Siar, director for research information of PIDS and Ms. Lourdes Salvador, PSU head librarian, as witnesses. Dr. Daphne Mallari, PSU research director; Dr. Michael Pido, PSU vice-president for research and extension; and other PIDS staff also graced the inauguration.

Siar presented the SocioEconomic Research Portal for the Philippines (SERP-P), an online repository of socioeconomic materials. SERP-P, which is hosted by PIDS, serves not only as an online version of the PIDS Corner but an extensive knowledge resource as it contains more than 5,000 materials produced by PIDS and other academic and research institutions in the Philippines, including international development organizations like World Bank-Philippines and Asian Development Bank. Siar also noted that SERP-P is one of eight partners across the globe selected by Eldis Knowledge Services of the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, to join its project provisionally called ``Open Knowledge Hub`` or OKH. The project aims to increase the availability and accessibility of international development research particularly those generated from the global south. SERP-P`s participation in the OKH means greater exposure for Philippine studies, researchers, and research organizations in the international community.


Government think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) is the top social policy think tank in Southeast Asia and one of the best in the world, according to the 2013 Global Go Think Tank Report released by the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program (TTCSP) of the University of Pennsylvania.

The Global Go To Think Tank Report is a comprehensive ranking of the world`s top think tanks and acknowledges the important contributions and emerging global trends of think tanks worldwide. For this year, 6,826 think tanks from 182 countries were appraised. PIDS was ranked 37th among the top 50 social policy think tanks in the world. It surpassed the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) in Singapore that was ranked 41st. PIDS also managed to improve its position from 40th place in last year`s report.

Only PIDS and ISEAS are the ASEAN think tanks included in the world ranking of top social policy think tanks. On the other hand, PIDS was ranked 70th among 80 top international development think tanks and has moved up from its ranking of 79th place in the 2012 report.

PIDS is a state-funded think tank devoted to independent research and innovative policy solutions. Since its establishment in 1977, it has been engaged in conducting long-term, policy-oriented studies to assist policymakers and planners in crafting development plans and programs that are based on sound research evidence. PIDS has completed more than 800 studies that encompass a wide range of development issues such as trade, competition policy, housing and urban development, demography, poverty, agriculture, environment, public finance, information and communication technology, education, health economics, and others.

The Institute has assumed leadership roles in regional knowledge networks such as the East Asian Development Network (EADN) and is also an active member of the Global Development Network (GDN). On June 19-21, 2013, PIDS co-organized the GDNs 14th Annual Conference with the Asian Development Bank (ADB). Held at the ADB headquarters, the international conference had the theme Inequality, Social Protection, and Inclusive Growth. PIDS has also conducted numerous seminars and conferences with representatives from international agencies such as the ADB, World Bank, and various United Nations agencies, among others.

President Benigno Aquino III, during his State of the Nation Address last year, quoted the policy recommendations of a PIDS study on the government`s conditional cash transfer program, the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), as the basis for his decision to extend the program.

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The challenge toward achieving universal health care coverage in the Philippines is how to extend health care coverage to the informal sector.
Under the National Health Insurance Program, the formal sector is mandatorily enrolled in the social health insurance program, while those in the informal sector, mostly self-employed and the near poor, have to enroll voluntarily. Coverage of the informal sector is still slow, according to a research of the UPecon Foundation " Health Equity and Financial Protection in Asia Project (UPecon-HEFPA).
University of the Philippines School of Economics (UPSE) Associate Professor Joseph Capuno said insurance subsidies in the form of premium vouchers, information kits, and assistance to complete and submit enrollment forms can increase insurance uptake by the informal sector. Capuno stressed this in a symposium on Towards Universal SHI Coverage in the Philippines: Setting the Subsidies Right for the Informal Sector, held last September 27, at the UPSE. The forum was cosponsored by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) and part of the observance of the 11th Development Policy Research Month.
Through the PhilHealth Prepaid Premium (3P) study of the UPecon-HEFPA team, it was found that premium subsidies bundled with information drives (information kit and SMS messages) could help increase the enrollment in social health insurance (SHI). However, financial burdens placed on families by the enrollment process must be addressed. The identified Individually Paying Program (IPP) members of the 3P study were given 3P certificates worth six hundred pesos each, which they can use to enroll in PhilHealth. They were all also given information packets about the IP program, its requirements and procedures. Very few 3P certificate recipients enrolled, however, and it was found out that this was due to the lack of funds to cover the transaction costs of their enrollment (like transportation fares).
Premium subsidies may be less effective than measures that reduce the burden placed on families by the enrollment process, said Capuno.
Moreover, the PhilHealth benefit delivery rate (BDR) for inpatient care for the informal sector in 2010 was only 10.51 percent, according to UPSE Associate Professor Stella Luz Quimbo. The BDR is a summary measure of social health insurance performance that reflects the enrollment of the target population (coverage rate), its accessibility to beneficiaries (claim rate), and the magnitude of social health insurance benefits relative to medical expenditures (reimbursement rate).
To improve the BDR of the informal sector, efforts should be directed toward expanding the coverage rate (50%) and the reimbursement rate (currently at 37.34%), Quimbo said.
Highlighting the importance of health insurance to the poor and vulnerable groups, in particular to the informal sector, UPSE Associate Professor Aleli Kraft said improving financial protection through health insurance will help poor households avoid cutting down their basic food and nonfood expenditures, especially those for medical care and education.
PhilHealth coverage as of 2011 is 82 percent of the population or about 74 million. Nevertheless, huge challenges remain on how to effectively and rationally utilize insurance benefits for beneficiaries and how to keep beneficiaries enrolled, particularly those in the informal sector.


A new book by state think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies and the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic, and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD) examines the declining enrollment in agriculture, forestry, and natural resources (AFNR) courses in the country.

Titled "Higher Education in Agriculture: Trends, Prospects, and Policy Directions", it looks into the need to rationalize AFNR higher educational and technical-vocational institutions. The book considers the development gains for the country if the agricultural sector, which represents a third of the countrys workforce, gets its much-needed boost.

The book is the result of the project "Policy Research on the State and Future Supply of and Demand for AFNR Graduates in the Philippines" conducted by PIDS and PCAARRD. It was edited by Dr. Roehlano Briones, PIDS Senior Research Fellow, and Dr. Melvin Carlos, Chief Science Research Specialist and Director of the Technology Transfer and Promotion Division at PCAARRD.

"The book will serve as a guide to policymakers, education specialists, students, and other education stakeholders, to understand the emerging challenges in the human resource aspect of agricultural development," said Dr. Gilberto Llanto, PIDS President.

Dr. Patricio Faylon, PCAARRD Executive Director, said the book is intended to dig deeper into the declining enrollment in AFNR courses and to provide reasons for its decline, and what should be done to address this alarming phenomenon in AFNR education.

The book is another contribution of PIDS in partnership with PCAARRD to highlight the other key ingredient of inclusive growth which is higher education. The trends, prospects, and policy directions of higher education in agriculture, which is the core study of this book, provides compelling recommendations on how the agriculture sector can stand up on its own legs.

For inquiries on the book, kindly contact the Publications and Circulation Division of PIDS at or dial 893-9573/894-2584.


Government institutions seal partnership toward strong policy research.

Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) signed a memorandum of understanding with the Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP) for research collaboration and knowledge sharing. PIDS President Gilberto Llanto and DAP President Antonio Kalaw Jr. signed the MOU for PIDS and DAP, respectively. Under the agreement, PIDS and DAP shall cooperate to identify opportunities for research collaboration; implement seminars, conferences, and workshops; develop cooperative mechanisms and other forms of cooperation; and identify other forms of cooperation for research.

State think tank PIDS conducts long-term policy-oriented research to assist the government in development planning and policy formulation. DAP is involved in research and capacity building. This new partnership is envisioned to further enrich their research capacities for generating new ideas and innovations in support of the country`s attainment of sustainable and inclusive development.

State think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) and Development Academy of the Philippines formally seal their partnership on February 4, 2014. PIDS President Gilberto Llanto (left) and DAP President and CEO Antonio Kalaw Jr. (right) sign the memorandum of understanding for collaboration in research and knowledge sharing. Behind them are Dr. Sheila Siar (left), director for research information at PIDS, and Carlos Sayco Jr. (right), Vice-President for International Relations, Innovation, Strategic Convergence Initiatives