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30 March 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. was a featured speaker at the Alliance for Global Health and Competitiveness (AHC) Ambassadors’ Forum held on 29 March 2016 at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, D.C. He was joined by Ambassador Robinson Githae of Kenya.

The Forum was designed to gain insight into the relationship between healthcare and economic growth from Washington-based foreign ambassadors who were former central bank governors and finance ministers for their countries. The AHC believes in stimulating the flow of world-class health solutions across borders and boundaries.

In his presentation, Ambassador Cuisia described how, from 2010 to 2015, the Philippine Government made a conscious effort to increase the social welfare and development budget by seven-fold, and poured significant investments into education and health. He also said that investing in the Philippines’ healthcare system was a vital element in the Government’s effort to make growth more inclusive, and that this should continue to be a vital sector for the next administration.

In describing trade and investment opportunities, Ambassador Cuisia drew attention to the manufacturing capabilities and advantages of the Philippines, particularly on medical devices. He likewise spoke about the important economic contributions of the remittances from overseas Filipino health professionals and workers, and the rapidly increasing investments in healthcare business process management operations.

“The President has always insisted that the greatest resource of our country is the Filipino people; as such, we have invested in our human resources. And investing in people also means investing in their healthcare and well-being,” Ambassador Cuisia emphasized.

Ambassador Githae focused on his observations as a former finance minister of Kenya. He noted at the outset that healthcare investments will need to compete with other equally important developmental objectives in an environment where the financial resources of a country are not infinite, but limited. He said that this was a universal challenge for developing countries. He also addressed the issues relating to access to health insurance and the financing of good health care services.

In the brief discussion following the two presentations, the Ambassadors and participants exchanged views on the inherent tension between the investment needs of hard infrastructure and healthcare when finance policy makers in developing countries make investment decisions affecting their very limited financial resources. It was pointed out that this tension became more acute considering the traditional notion of healthcare as not being a contributor to economic growth.

It was also pointed out that lack of healthcare primarily affected the vulnerable, such as babies and pregnant women. Ambassador Cuisia agreed with this assessment and stated that, “this is a difficult reality especially in the face of there being not enough resources for all the developmental needs of the country.”

“However, the Philippine Government, under President Aquino, has made tremendous efforts to provide for healthcare despite limited resources,” he added. ###