The Bayanihan To Recover As One or the Bayanihan 2 Bill totaling 165 billion pesos will provide funding appropriations to selected government agencies and meant to be used to stimulate the economy because of the ill-effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The controversy over the allocation of tourism funds ended with the Senate version (Senate Bill 1564) getting the nod over the Congress version (HB6593) during a Bicameral Session by both houses.
Originally, the Senate bill that was passed in July stipulated that 10 billion would be used to provide for soft loans and guarantees to affected establishments numbering to 144,642 including accommodation and food service activities and provide credit facilities to be able for them to renovate or modernize their facilities, among others.
However, tourism stakeholders and players were up in arms last week when Congress passed its own version that has similar stipulations for all industries except for the 10 billion pesos intended for tourism establishments. Congressmen reallocated the funds for the Tourism Infrastructure and Investment Zone Authority to support infrastructure projects. TIEZA is the infrastructure arm of the Department of Tourism. The vote was 242-6.
A solution that does not meet the need
Industry stakeholders were against the Congress Bill arguing that funds are needed more to assist the financial needs of tourism stakeholders who are mostly operating as MSMEs (medium, small and micro-scale enterprises). They highlighted the revenue losses because of zero foreign arrivals since March this year, with losses amounting to 190 B pesos.
Tourism Congress of the Philippines (TCP) President Jose Clemente III, echoed the sentiments of industry players by revealing that infrastructure projects will just be white elephants when the industry collapses.
“Who will use those infra projects when the industry collapses? Most of us are hanging on by a very thin thread. We are now approaching 150 days of not being able to work and conduct business yet we have gotten close to nothing in assistance,” Clemente revealed.
“We are an industry that provided more than 3 trillion pesos to the economy, provided 5.7 million jobs, and 12.7% to GDP,” he added.
DOT Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat has expressed support for the Senate bill, as well as other Cabinet members, who voiced out in unison the importance of the survival of the industry more than building infrastructure.
A press release from DOT called on Congress to reconsider the amendments made in their proposal to directly fund critically impacted tourism businesses rather than simply allocating the bulk of the funds for tourism infrastructure projects.
Funds for displaced tourism workers over “toilets”
In a live radio interview with Senator Francis Drilon, he stated that the senators prevailed after long debates with the congressmen because they agreed with the DOT appeal to help the MSMEs who have suffered great losses to their businesses through soft loans rather than building toilets and farm-to-market roads. The approved allocation is: P3 billion for displaced workers of the tourism industry; P6 billion as loanable fund through the Small Business Corp. of DTI; as a compromise, P1 billion will be allotted for infrastructure, but through the DPWH. (Buddy G. Recio)