Tourism body decries realignment of bailout fund
In a 25-page position paper, Tourism Congress of the Philippines president Jose Clemente III told senators and House members that Senate Bill 1564 and House Bill 6953, which seek to realign the P10-billion fund to the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority, may not help the industry at all.
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Tourism body decries realignment of bailout fund
Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) - August 11, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — A group yesterday asked the Senate and the House of Representatives to hew to the Department of Tourism (DOT)’s P10-billion “bailout” plan to help tourism-related businesses that bore the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a 25-page position paper, Tourism Congress of the Philippines president Jose Clemente III told senators and House members that Senate Bill 1564 and House Bill 6953, which seek to realign the P10-billion fund to the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA), may not help the industry at all.

“The stakeholders, as represented by the various associations, have been consistent in their request, from the beginning of the pandemic and quarantine, that financial assistance for business continuity is what the industry needs. Never did we advocate for more infrastructure at this time. Who will use those infrastructure when the industry collapses? The industry is hanging on by a thin thread. We are now approaching 150 days of not being able to work, yet we have gotten close to nothing in assistance,” the paper read in part.

Clemente said both bills are “directly in conflict with the directions being given to the DOT” for purposes of helping out those businesses that have closed shop or were severely affected by the health crisis.

“Philippine tourism, being a labor-intensive sector, is suffering the most from the crisis. As tourism-characteristic industries are the most heavily affected, government support is necessary to re-start and ensure financial viability of the many industries. Specifically, the tourism sector needs temporary deferment of applicable taxes for a pre-determined period of time and low-interest loans or credit,” the group declared.

It added that affected tourism businesses all over the country should also be able to avail themselves of loans or assistance from the government financial institutions like the state-owned Land Bank of the Philippines and Development Bank of the Philippines.

In response, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said in a statement the DOT is one with the industry stakeholders who have expressed their position for a specific allocation for working capital loans set in the proposed Bayanihan Act 2. Direct assistance to the tourism industry is what the other countries did to ensure its expedient recovery.

“We are therefore proposing that of the P10 billion, P9.5 billion be allocated to finance the programs of the DOT to fund critically impacted businesses while P500 million will go to various support programs that would further aid the industry toward the new normal,” Puyat said.

As part of its efforts for the recovery of the tourism sector, the DOT will implement its Tourism Response and Recovery Action Plan, which has a total investment cost of P92.45 billion composed of the response and recoil investment cost of P74.39 billion and recovery phase cost of P18.06 billion.

Of the P92.45-billion investment cost, P3.584 billion will be needed for securing livelihood and adequate social services and protecting visitors and tourism workers; P70.107 billion for sustaining business operations and ensuring business survival; P15.233 billion for appropriate infrastructure and policy to build a more sustainable and resilient tourism industry; and P3.530 billion for enhanced marketing and market and product development to restore the industry’s confidence.

The tourism industry is a key driver of the Philippine economy with a 12.7 percent gross domestic product (GDP) contribution in 2019 as well as generating an employment of 5.71 million.

Latest data from the DOT show that estimated inbound tourism revenues for the first half of the year plunged 66.7 percent to P81.05 billion from P243 billion in the same period last year, as travel restrictions remain in place amid the pandemic.

In addition, international visitor arrivals during the period dropped 68 percent to 1.3 million. – Catherine Talavera, Mayen Jaymalin

DEPARTMENT OF TOURISM
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