House vows to support tourism industry’s recovery

THE House leadership has assured tourism business leaders this week of its unequivocal support for this once booming industry, as the chamber has set aside a considerable part of its just-approved bill on the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act or Bayanihan 2 for the recovery of this sector that is one of the worst hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

In a Tuesday morning virtual meeting of the House committee on tourism, Deputy Speaker and Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte told Tourism Congress of the Philippines (TCP) president Jose Clemente III and other industry leaders of the commitment of the House leadership under Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano to help bring this industry back on
its feet soon enough by way of successive funding support from the chamber for a series of stimulus programs for the sector.

“The House leadership’s commitment to the swift recovery of domestic tourism industry is in full support of President Duterte’s call in his 5th SONA (State of the Nation Address) for Filipinos to help boost the domestic economy by travelling locally,” Villafuerte said.

Villafuerte explained to Clemente and other industry leaders during the virtual meeting that Bayanihan 2, of which the Camarines Sur congressman is the lead proponent in the House, provides for a P162-billion stimulus package to aid the various coronavirus disease-19 (COVID)-hit sectors.

This includes a P51-billion outlay for government financial institutions or GFIs—the Land Bank of the Philippines (LandBank) and the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP)—for their various credit programs intended for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) along with transport and tourism stakeholders reeling from the pandemic’s economic fallout.

On top of such stimulus funds for tourism and other sectors, he said House Bill (HB) 6953 or Bayanihan 2 provides for a P10-billion allocation for the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA), which is the infrastructure arm of the Department of Tourism (DOT), “for infrastructure projects aimed at beefing up the country’s tourism infrastructure for the long haul and creating thousands of jobs for displaced industry workers in the immediate term.”

The House unanimously approved Bayanihan 2 on third and final reading by a 242-0 vote on Monday while the Senate earlier approved its own version, which entails a smaller stimulus package of P140 billion. There is no counterpart  P10-billion allocation for TIEZA in the Senate version (Senate Bill or SB 1564).

“The House leadership under Speaker Cayetano has assured tourism industry leaders led by Mr. Clemente of its unequivocal support for the speedy recovery of this once booming sector, which is among the sectors worst hit by the coronavirus pandemic,” Villafuerte said.

During Tuesday’s meeting of the House tourism panel chaired by Laguna Rep. Sol Aragones, Villafuerte clarified industry concerns that a P10-billion allocation for the tourism sector in the Senate version of Bayanihan 2 was supposedly “realigned” to the TIEZA.

The deputy speaker for finance explained that although the Senate indeed provided for a P10-billion outlay to the DOT for soft loans and credit guarantees to Covid-hit establishments, such an amount was incorporated in HB 6953 in the P51-billion GFI budget of the LandBank and DBP for credit assistance to MSMEs plus transport and tourism establishments in need of financial support.