PEZA approves Israeli-Filipino vaccine manufacturing project

Published October 26, 2021, 5:49 PM

by Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

Israeli-Filipino joint venture Savepoint Biotek has been approved as manufacturer of oral COVID-19 vaccines with projected annual sales of $180 million from the Philippines and export markets.

The Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) Board has approved Savepoint Biotek’s registration agreement. Savepoint is investing P83 million initially for the project to be located in the Pampanga Economic Zone.

A source privy to the project application said the company has projected annual sales of $180 million of which 70 percent is expected to come from its export markets Asia Pacific and Africa. The project is also expected to employ 425 workers upon full commercial operation.

Sources said that partners, the Filipino and the Israel pharmaceutical firm, are still finalizing their equity structure. While waiting, the source said, the project would be represented by the Filipino group.

Savepoint is the first among several vaccine manufacturing firms that have expressed interest to locate in the country.

Earlier, the Board of Investments had identified 6 pharmaceutical firms interested to manufacture COVID-19 vaccines in the country. Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez, who is also BOI chairman, also identified vaccine firms Greentech, Glovax Biotech, IG Biotech, New Marketlink, Lloyds Laboratories, and United Laboratories (Unilab) for potential ventures.

These groups already held discussions potential foreign manufacturers and technology providers from India, Korea, China, Taiwan, and possibly from the United States and Australia. For instance, Glovax Biotech has partnered with a Korean vaccine manufacturer to produce the EuCorVac-19 vaccines in the Philippines.

In the longer term, Lopez said, the government is looking at a full-scale vaccine manufacturing facility. “This is critical in giving the country a sense of security and self-sufficiency to address current and future health emergencies and pandemics,” he said.

To date, PEZA said that 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.

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).

PEZA also cited of interest from foreign pharmaceutical groups to invest in their ecozones, particularly members of the Pakistani Medical Manufacturers Association.

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, PEZA has been 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.