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Do you want to be an expat in the Philippines?

Updated: Oct 7, 2022


Following on from our earlier blog on Vietnam we now move to the Philippines. Decades ago the Philippines had one of the strongest economies in Asia and with reasonable infrastructure. Potentially it was poised to become a significant economic power in the region but unfortunately the last few decades have been unkind to the Philippines and in particular its working people.

Decades of corruption, mismanagement and poor politicians have left the Philippines lagging behind almost every country in Asia. The quality of life for the average Filipino is poor due to the terrible infrastructure and poor food quality despite the country being possessed by fantastic natural resources and potential for Agriculture.

Despite the above the Philippines economy chugs along with good growth currently based on two significant contributions. The ‘Overseas Foreign Worker’ [OFW] provides significant revenue every month to the Philippine economy and has done for decades. The other significant contributor is the ‘Business Process Outsourcing’ [BPO] which now compares well with the income generated from OFW’s.

The BPO industry has radically changed the employment situation in the Philippines and means that people are no longer forced to work abroad as the BPO industry provides good jobs and with a reasonable salary.

For expats the most popular areas in Metro Manila are Makati, Bonifacio Global City and Ortigas. Generally if you live in Makati, it is best you work there and the same for the other areas. The traffic can be stifling and as one recent visitor put it takes away much of the fun when visiting the Philippines. The traffic situation is bad pretty much everywhere including Cebu and almost all towns and cities.

If the Philippines is your first posting overseas it will bring many surprises some pleasant and others not so. The poverty in certain areas is hard to ignore but as are the day to day smiles you see from the people who have a positive and happy approach to life even if they don’t have much. The Philippines like many places in Asia is generally safe as long as you are careful and don’t leave things lying around.

With English being the language of law and spoken throughout the Philippines it makes getting around and getting things done a little easier. As well as the friendly people the Philippines is a welcoming and hospitable country to tourists and expats, everyone mingles freely and without many issues.

For those looking for excitement, night life and good restaurants then Manila and other places now have this is in abundance. If you are looking for culture and sports, then you have probably come to the wrong country unless basketball is your game or boxing which are the Philippines national sports.

For the adventurous the Philippines offers some of the most beautiful beaches, islands and scenery in the world. The struggle is getting there, which is why it lags other countries in the region, in terms of tourist numbers like Malaysia and Thailand. Once you manage to explore beaches like the famous Boracay and islands like Palawan, Coron and Bohol it is hard not to become enchanted with the people and the beauty of the country.

Slowly the Philippines is trying to up its game and has positioned itself as a ‘retirement destination’. The government offer almost all foreign nationals the opportunity to take up a ‘retirement visa’ by either lodging money with the government or purchasing a property. This is a smart move from the government to attract wealth into the country and encourage spending and create more jobs. The ‘retirement visa’ is one of the most attractive in the region and is good value for money.

Filipinos have a great service ethic and their natural charm and sense of humour make this a great place to spend time and live despite the many frustrations which also go with routine life. As a retirement location it currently probably offers the best value for money in Asia as well as a great climate and sense of fun.

For expats sent to the Philippines for business it can also be a fun place to be based but like many countries in the region can be frustrating and slow. On the plus side, the advent of ‘low cost airlines’, make it easy to get out on weekends to the islands or other beautiful countries and cities in the region.

In terms of an expat posting the Philippines would not rank very highly for many reasons discussed above. For the charm of the people and the stunning scenery once you get off the beaten track it however still has much to offer.

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