October 19, 2019
THE Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) on Friday invited Indian pharmaceutical companies to establish plants in the Philippines and manufacture medicines to reduce costs.
On the sidelines of the Philippines-India Trade Consultations event in Makati City, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez extended that invitation to those firms, particularly those producing specialized medicines.
“We just want them to produce [those drugs] here to lessen [price and imports],” Lopez said.
The invitation came as Rolando Enrique Domingo, Health undersecretary and officer in charge of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), said the Philippines imports about $200 million worth of medicines from India annually.
“We have a very healthy trade relationship with India when it comes to medicine. Medicines make up about 12 percent of all imports from India. About $200 million a year, and most of it, or 90 percent, is by the government,” Domingo said.
The government imports drugs in an effort to bring down the prices of medicines in the country.
“With the Universal Health Care program, the government and PhilHealth (Philippine Health Insurance Corp.) will be a major procurer of services, drugs and supplies for the country, and we foresee that there’s [a] very bright future for more drugs coming into the Philippines, especially from India,” the Health official said.
But Indian pharmaceutical firms lamented the “tedious registration process” at the FDA.
“The registration process [at] the FDA lasts up to one to three years for a single drug. The president already gave direction that he wants to bring the prices of medicines down,” said Daryanani, president of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce (Philippines) Inc. (Ficci)
“We are actively working with ARTA (Anti-Red Tape Authority) on this matter, but we are asking the DTI to help us hammer this up,” he added.
Besides pharmaceuticals, Daryanani said tourism is also another industry with potential.
“[T]here is [a] huge potential for Indian tourists to come in the Philippines. Since we are now focused on our non-traditional markets, India, I daresay, can play a big role [here] and actually overtake our friends in [Southeast Asia] and China, even from a tourism point of view,” the Ficci head said.
“We would like to seek your [Lopez’s] help if you can push this to the DoT (Department or Tourism) to make it a priority, [from] a marketing perspective, to bring Indian tourists to the Philippines and introduce [the] Philippines to Indian travelers,” he told the Trade chief.
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