Living and teaching on a beach

Michael Alan Hamlin

Posted on April 4, 2007

Promoting the Philippines as a lifestyle destination

A Boston-based friend, business consultant, and investment advisor wrote over the weekend that he is considering a move to the Philippines. I’m not sure if he’s just fed up with frigid northwestern winters, has finally made his drop-dead money, or is simply bored. But the idea of retiring to the Philippines is an increasingly attractive one for stressed individuals from San Jose to Amsterdam.

My friend’s specific request went like this, “If I wanted to live on a beach and teach strategy to MBA students in the Philippines, would that be feasible?” A Wharton MBA who is the author of seven books and is often quoted on CNBC and in FORTUNE magazine as well as other top-tier investment news shows and publications, my friend would no doubt be a valued member of a business school faculty anywhere.

And living on the beach is certainly very easy, with multiple world-class leisure destinations available, such as Punta Fuego in Batangas and Amara in Cebu. Living on the beach and teaching regularly at a business school, even in the Philippines, however, would probably be difficult. How difficult is open to speculation, but regardless of the difficulty, living in the Philippines is a temptation hard to resist for those who have experience in or knowledge of the country, as my friend does.

A look at the roster of members of any foreign chamber of commerce quickly confirms this reality. There are the transients, of course, multinational country managers who are typically here for two years or so, and move on to other assignments. But the workhorses of the chambers are typically former expatriates who either decided not to move on, or moved back the first chance they had. The number of newly minted foreign entrepreneurs is also on the rise, especially in industries supporting the fast-growing business processing (BPO) industry.

Foreign residents are attractive investors and opportunity generators. Take Frank Holz, a nearly 30-year resident, for instance. Holz started in the Philippines as a consultant for what was then Andersen Consulting, and today is known as Accenture. Starting with a handful of employees, in the ensuing years Accenture in the Philippines grew into a global supplier of software solutions and services and other BPO services and now employs more than 7,000 Filipinos.

According to Accenture executives, Holz made an important contribution to the firm’s dramatic growth. But that was just the beginning for Holz. After retiring from Accenture, he went on to found or invest in a number of Philippine startups, including an architectural services firm and most recently an engineering services firm that provides outsourced, value-added services. He is also the CEO of Outsource2Philippines, a consultancy that helps firms establish outsourcing facilities in the Philippines and operate them efficiently (Full Disclosure: I am an investor in Outsource2Philippines.).

Similarly, other foreign residents I’ve talked to recently are setting up language and training institutes, recruiting expatriate Filipinos from around the world to return and help build the economy, getting involved in reforestation and economic empowerment projects, participating in new real estate developments, and establishing other new services-oriented businesses. All of these endeavors create jobs and opportunities for Filipinos.

Fortunately, it is getting easier for these foreign residents to apply for and attain permission to live in the Philippines. The Philippine Retirement Authority (PLA) offers foreigners aspiring to or living in the Philippines a Special Resident Retiree’s Visa (SRRVisa). It describes the SRRVisa as a “lifestyle visa for those who enjoy perks and privileges, a hassle-free visa for the frequent business traveler, and a retirement visa for the elderly who need special care for their special needs” on its website.

The visa is generally available to individuals between 35 and 50 who invest US$75,000 in a condominium or a business registered in the Philippines. For individuals over 50, the investment is reduced to $50,000. The SRRVisa is available to other prospective foreign investors at lower rates. For example, former employees of the Asian Development Bank invest just $25,000 on the assumption that they have already invested at least that much in real estate.

This is a good time for the Philippines to promote the country to foreign investors as a lifestyle destination. The Philippines consistently ranks at the top of surveys targeting expatriates in terms of quality of life. But the real benefit to the Philippines is not the relatively paltry investment required to obtain a SRRVisa. It’s the jobs these investors create, and the new revenue opportunities they generate.

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