‘77% of Pinoys want to travel amid pandemic’

Delon Porcalla - The Philippine Star
â77% of Pinoys want to travel amid pandemicâ
This undated image shows travelers walking in an airport.
Pixabay / Skitterphoto

MANILA, Philippines — Due to the months-long lockdown, a vast majority of the country’s 110 million Filipinos want to travel to domestic tourist spots and take a respite from strict government restrictions, Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat told lawmakers yesterday.

“Based on our survey, 77 percent of Filipinos still want to travel even during the COVID-19 pandemic,” she told the appropriations committee of the House of Representatives, where she defended the Department of Tourism (DOT)’s P3.5-billion budget for 2021.

This is equivalent to about 80 million of the 110 million total population.

Puyat also revealed to lawmakers that hotel and resort owners have been asking for the establishment of an “isolation center” and the putting up of a reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test booth in their business establishments.

The RT-PCR or swab test is considered the gold standard in COVID-19 testing.

“They want the swab tests done fast and with immediate result, so they can screen those who are infected. Also, they want the isolation centers so they can put those who will suddenly have fevers right away,” the DOT chief related.

“All of our tourist destinations of course want to open, but they are afraid and are very cautious. This is why we are giving all of them the support we have, like these safety and health protocols,” Puyat added.

So far, tourism in Boracay has partially opened, aside from Baguio City in Region 1.

Puyat nevertheless believes the country will recover with domestic tourism more than attracting foreign tourists due to the global pandemic, where other parts of the world have also imposed restrictions on travel.

AMLC has smallest budget

The Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) has the smallest budget allocation among all the agencies in the entire government bureaucracy, which was earmarked a measly P85.2 million for its spending for the fiscal year 2021.

Rep. Mike Defensor said there are also three others who have been given paltry sums, among them the Commission on Filipinos Overseas with P172.3 million, Anti-Red Tape Authority with P146 million and the Dangerous Drugs Board with P344.5 million.

He said P387.6 million or 57 percent of the OVP outlay is for “subsidy/financial assistance” or dole-outs.

Defensor pointed out that the President and his economic team have proposed reductions in funding for some agencies and offices due to financial difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is the reason why the OVP funding for next year is P28 million less than this year’s P708 million. The President himself is proposing an P11-million reduction in the budget for his own office,” he added.

He said the OVP outlay has increased by 59 percent since Robredo’s full year in office in 2017, when Congress allocated P428.6 million for her.

“Since then, Congress has been padding her budget. Her subsidy/financial assistance went up from P177.6 million in 2017 to P277.6 million in 2018 to P387.6 million this year and next year. Congress has been generous to the Vice President. Her supporters have no reason to complain,” Defensor said.

Defensor – chairman of the House committee on public accounts – stressed that if even just a part of the OVP financial assistance funds was allocated to a congressman, “it will be labeled as pork barrel.”

He added that the other components of the 2021 OVP budget are P117.3 million for salaries, P3.7 million for capital outlay, P28.3 million for travel, P6.6 million for communication, P26.6 million for representation and entertainment and P41.8 million for consultants.

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