House probes NCoV impact

February 11, 2020

RESPONDING to the call of Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, two House committees are set to conduct a joint hearing today to determine the impact of the 2019 novel coronavirus on the economy and tourism industry.

The House committee on economic affairs and committee on tourism will also draft measures on how to mitigate the impact on the country of the virus that is now affecting more than 27 countries and has killed more than 1,000 patients mostly in China.

The two chairpersons, AAMBIS-OWA Rep. Sharon Garin and Laguna Rep. Sol Aragones, have invited Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat and some airlines representatives to get their views and perspectives on the issue.

Among the expected guests are Board of Airline Representatives (BAR) Chairman Genaro Velasquez, Philippines AirAsia (PAA) Global Affairs Head Desiree Bandal and PAA Pilot Flight Safety Chief Capt. Christopher Natividad.

Other resource persons invited by the Committee are Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, Health Secretary Francisco Duque lll, Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez, Socio-Economic Planning Secretary and National Economic and Development Authority Director-General Ernesto Pernia, Bureau of Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente, and Philippine Retailers Association President Rosemarie Ong.

Speaker Cayetano earlier expressed the need to work with the tourism and services sector to ensure that tourism growth will not be derailed as a result of the travel restrictions and the NCoV scare.

Philippine Tour Operators Association President Cesar Cruz cited that about 50 percent of reservations in Boracay, Cebu and Palawan have been canceled as a result of the imposition of travel ban to and from China, which is the second largest tourism market.

With this development the Philippine Tour Operators Association estimates that the tourism industry has lost at least P10 billion.

The National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) said preliminary estimates indicate that the economy might lose from 0.06 percent of GDP, or about P11 billion, up to 0.7 percent, or about P133 billion, should the contagion persist inordinately.

The Speaker said measures should be taken to soften the impact of the 2019-nCoV  problem such as strengthening domestic tourism and exploring other tourism markets. He hopes that through this hearing the Department of Tourism and other tourism stakeholders  they can work together to develop viable solutions to lessen impact to the livelihood of the informal workers dependent on the tourism industry.