Boosting our pharmaceutical industry 

Published February 16, 2021, 12:33 AM

by Former Senator Atty. Joey D. Lina


Former Senator
Atty. Joey Lina

Here’s good news that largely went unnoticed: President Duterte has okayed the expansion of the Bulacan Industrial City where a new pharmaceutical manufacturing zone is set to rise.

Sen. Francis Tolentino, who was my online guest last Sunday in my Teleradyo program Sagot Ko ‘Yan, relayed the good news that Malacañang issued Proclamation No. 1070 last January 11 designating 259,069 square meters of land in Malolos, Bulacan, as a special economic zone.

He said the newly designated land in Malolos will be added to the current 38-hectare Bulacan Industrial City that was established in 1991, and dubbed as the “Pharma City of the North” which houses several pharmaceutical firms such as Pascual Laboratories, Cargill Philippines, and seven others.

The presidential proclamation said the designated parcels of land in Barangays Santor and Balite in Malolos shall be known as the First Bulacan Business Park (FBBP). It is envisioned to be the “premier ecozone in the country that will host pharmaceutical companies,” according to the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA), “FBBP plans to adopt smart technologies and renewable source of power inside the ecozone to meet locator companies’ demand for a sustainable business environment.”

It certainly is good news that expansion of pharma zones will become reality. It is apparently an offshoot of Senate Resolution No. 508 filed by Sen. Tolentino “urging PEZA and the Board of Investments to accelerate the establishment of pharmaceutical manufacturing zones in the country and encourage the growth of the medical industry.”

Expanding pharma zones, Sen. Tolentino explained, has both short and long-term goals: “Aside from providing the public with locally manufactured but less expensive vaccines just like in the case of COVID-19 disease, it can also bring forth more investments and jobs for the pandemic-stricken economy.”

He said the Philippines, which remains one of the biggest pharmaceutical markets in the Southeast Asia region next only to Indonesia and Thailand, ought to “take advantage of the current situation amid the pandemic since expanding the pharma zones can boost the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) up to 4.5 percent.” The GDP boost is projected in a study commissioned by the Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association of the Philippines.

Based on a recent analysis made by the England-based Global Data London, Sen. Tolentino said the local pharmaceutical market will grow to reach P241.9 billion in 2025 following the implementation of the Universal Healthcare Act.

Sen. Tolentino’s call for more pharma zones has gained PEZA’s wholehearted support.

PEZA Director General Charito Plaza recently declared: “The creation of pharmaceutical economic zones in the country will also be officially included as one of the types of economic zones to be created by PEZA.”

She said “PEZA will continue to do its best to attract investors that will create more pharmaceutical economic zones in the Philippines, making the country self-reliant, self-sustaining, and resource-generating in terms of producing our own medicines, medical equipment and supplies.”

“We aim to promote the creation and development of more world-class economic zones in every province in the country in line with the President’s Administrative Order No. 18,” she said. “We are partnering up with the different local government units in harnessing use of lands in their respective jurisdictions by utilizing the overall millions of hectares of idle lands in the country and turning them into green, healthy, and sustainable economic zones.”

With an economic output currently estimated at P146 billion a year, the local pharmaceutical industry employs more than 60,000 Filipinos and supports close to 100 other industries here.

Sen. Tolentino is right when he said that accelerating the establishment of pharmaceutical manufacturing zones will help stabilize our pandemic-stricken economy and give Filipinos better access to cheaper medicines.

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