Total medical product manufacturing investments in the country’s economic zones have reached P21.8 billion, but robust growth is expected following keen interest from world’s pharmaceutical companies, including Pakistanis, to expand operations in the Philippines.

In a virtual briefing by the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) for the Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (PMMA), Deputy Director-General Tereso Panga reported that PEZA has registered 26 companies engaged in the manufacture of medical equipment/products with combined investments of P21.8 billion.

The top three biggest foreign investors in the medical sector are Terumo of Japan (P7.8 billion), JMS Healthcare (P1.6 billion), and Arkray Industry (P727.8 million).

So far, there is only one Pakistani medical firm investor in PEZA — Royal Life Pharma Corp. Getz Pharma of Pakistan is not registered with PEZA as it is catering to the domestic market. But, Panga said they are trying to convince Getz Pharma, a current manufacturer of generic drugs, to locate in the ecozone for future manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines and treatment medicines.

PEZA is also enticing other foreign pharma companies to locate in PEZA. Its latest approved pharma investor is Savepoint Biotek, an Israeli-Filipino joint venture engaged in the production of COVID-19 oral vaccines.

During the virtual business forum, PEZA Director General Charito B. Plaza, Philippine Ambassador to Pakistan Daniel R. Espiritu and other government officials made a strong pitch for the Philippines to the PMMA for their future expansion at the First Bulacan Business Park (FBBP), the first pharma park approved by PEZA.

PPMA has 700 member companies, including 400 exporters and 25 licensed international subsidiaries of well-known and worldwide based pharma corporations. Its total exports in 2019 stood at $ 218 million. PPMA has expressed their members’ interest in setting up drug manufacturing operations in the country, particularly at the FBBP.

FBBP in Malolos, Bulacan is the first mixed-use ecozone in the province to be proclaimed by President Duterte on January 11, 2021. It is also the developer of the adjacent First Bulacan Industrial City (FBIC), which was established in the 1990s under the Board of Investments and dubbed as the “Pharma City of the North.” FBIC is home to 50 locators such as Lloyd Laboratories, Pascual Laboratories, Lumar Pharmaceutical, Cargill Phils., and Cosmetique Asia.

Envisioned to be a premier ecozone in the country that will host medical R&D, manufacture of innovative, over-the-counter and generic drug products, medical instruments/equipment, and pharma cold chain, FBBP is looking at the pharma parks of India, Thailand and Singapore as its model for the Philippines.

PEZA also highlighted the Philippines’ growing relevance in terms of medical products and devices production hub for the world and ASEAN.

For instance, Panga quoted data from Ken Research showing the Philippines was evaluated as the 11th most attractive market for pharmaceutical companies globally and third most attractive market among the ASEAN countries as of 2018.

The Philippines is the 3rd largest pharmaceutical market in the ASEAN region, behind Indonesia and Thailand. According to the ASEAN Pharma Report: Opportunities and Threats 2020 and Beyond, the Philippine pharmaceutical market is forecasted to gain a steady growth of 4.5 percent in the following years.

Based on a recent analysis made by the England-based Global Data London, Sen. Francis Tolentino said the local pharmaceutical market will grow to reach P241.9 billion in 2025 following the implementation of the Universal Healthcare Act. “Around P146 billion in economic output is being contributed by the local pharma industry in the country every year, and that it employs 60,000 Filipinos and also supports a hundred other industries,” he added.

It is estimated that the generic medicines segment will be approximately 64 percent of the total medicine retail in the Philippines by the year 2025 (Ken Research).

The Philippines was also projected to increase from $3.4 billion in 2015 to $4.1 billion by 2020, at a compound annual growth rate of 3.7 percent (GlobalData).

Among the top pharma companies in the country are the Filipino-owned Unilab (no. 1) and Cathay Drug, and mostly global giants such as Pfizer, GlaxoSmithkline, Abbot, Astellas, Wyeth, Boehringer Ingleheim, Novartis, Sanofi, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Roche, Bristol Myers Squibb, Schering Plough, and Merck.

In addition, the Philippines is an emerging destination for global clinical trials, which provided a significant boost for the healthcare sector (GlobalData, citing the US FDA).

Source: Manila Bulletin (