The Philippine Retirement Authority (PRA) was signed into law almost 30 years ago by former President Ferdinand E. Marcos. On May 12, 2009, PRA became an attached agency of the Department of Tourism under the supervision of the Secretary.
PRA’s mandate or vision is “to attract foreign nationals and former Filipino citizens to invest, reside and retire in the Philippines with the end-view of accelerating the socio-economic development of the country, contributing to the foreign currency reserve of the economy and by providing them the best quality of life in the most attractive package.”
Two years ago, PRA General Manager Veredigno Atienza said that “foreign retirees in the Philippines reached 29,589 as of March 15 and their number is expected to increase by 5 percent annually over the next four years.”
This year, the number should be about 32,621. Assuming an average of $50,000 (the fund requirement for one of the Special Resident Retiree Visa (SRRV) the PRA should have contributed at least $1.6 billion to the national treasury over a 30-year period.
Clearly, there’s quite a room for improvement.
In its January 2015 report, International Living, an organization that has been monitoring the overseas retirement destinations for more than 30 years, listed the 25 best places to retire in the world. Twelve were in Latin America, 7 in Europe, one in Oceania (New Zealand) and five in Southeast Asia.
Of the five, there were three with permanent residency programs for retirees. Cambodia and Vietnam do not. Malaysia and Thailand’s residency programs are less liberal and more restrictive than the Philippines but the two Southeast Asian neighbors ranked higher.
Ecuador was given the perfect score—100 percent. Malaysia got 80 percent and Thailand 76 percent. The Philippines’ score? Seventy-three percent.
The US State Department reports approximately four million Filipinos in America. This includes 200,000 Filipino American war veterans and their widows who want to return and retire in the Philippines say Eric Lachica, organizer of US Medicare Philippines, a non-profit advocacy organization in Washington DC on June 7, 2013.
In contrast to the two other Southeast Asian neighbors that have only a vanilla-flavor retirement plan, the Philippines has four Special Resident Retiree Visa (SSRV): the SSRV Smile – for 35 years old and above requiring only $20,000 to get an SSRV.
The three others are SSRV Classic, Human Touch and Courtesy requiring $50,000, $10,000 and $1,500 respectively. Malaysia’s financial requirement for permanent residency is $33.000 for single and $50,000 for married applicants.
As an alternative, applicants to Malaysia’s PR program may present evidence of $2,300 monthly income minimum for single and $3,300 for married applicants. Thailand’s income requirements are about the same or the applicant could present a bank balance of $33,569 (800,000 Thailand baht) to be approved for permanent residency.
In contrast, the PRA’s SSRV Courtesy PR program requires a former Filipino (such as the 200,000 naturalized Filipino veterans) only $1,500 to be granted residency and retire in the Philippines.
The hesitation of former Filipinos to retire in the Philippines involves more than just the transportability of Medicare as Eric Lachica’s group had been advocating for.
The incessant exposures on corruption, the jumping of the nation’s attention from one crisis to another (the PDAF, DAP, Janet Napoles, MRT, NAIA procurement and maintenance issues, Comelec’s questionable awarding of counting machines to a favored bidder and the latest Mamasapano massacre) all contribute to the reluctance to relocate.
Yet, there is a retiree sector closer to home that could contribute to the ranks of permanent resident SSRV holders.
Singapore has its share of elderly citizens ready to retire in the next few years. Most importantly, these Singaporeans are in the right age range to qualify for the SSRV Classic. And they have the funds to meet the financial requirement.
In 2014, the Singapore government reported that Singaporeans in aged 40 -44 have $13,524 income; those in the 45 to 49 age bracket have $11,306; the 50 to 54 – $10,787; for the 55-59 a household income of- $10,443; and the oldest age range 60-64 have $8,372.
Singapore’s post-war Baby Boomers turned 65 years old 3 years ago and the City State’s unprecedented age shift continues.
The Philippine Retirement Authority needs to take a futuristic, pragmatic vision instead of astigmatic look on how to get retirees coming. PRA must make the right contacts.