‘Lobbying’ for big tourism players decried

A party-list lawmaker on Tuesday accused the officials of the Department of Tourism (DoT) of lobbying in favor of the interests of tourism industry’s big players, and not of the displaced tourism industry workers.

During the bicameral conference committee hearing on the proposed  Bayanihan to Recover as One Act or Bayaniyan 2, COOP-NATCCO partylist Rep.  Sabiniano Canama railed at DoT officials led by Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat for allegedly trying to lobby the bicameral conference committee into allotting a P10 billion bailout fund apparently exclusively for them at the expense of ordinary workers who immediately need jobs to help tide them over amid the coronavirus-induced economic crisis.

“We challenge Secretary Romulo-Puyat to identify these big industry players that she is protecting and wants to bail out. The millions of displaced workers in the tourism industry deserve to know,” said Canama, who is the chairman of the House committee on cooperative development.

The House of Representatives has allocated P10 billion for the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) for its infrastructure projects and another P51 billion in additional capital to government financial institutions (GFIs) to lend out to the tourism and transportation sectors, micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and other industries hit hard by the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There is already a larger amount of P51 billion allocated by the House for loans to pandemic-hit private businesses,” Canama said.

He pointed out that what workers need now are jobs, which can be provided by infrastructure investments, given their high multiplier effects of creating employment, generating new businesses and stimulating consumer demand.

Canama expressed dismay that Romulo-Puyat had allegedly even told the bicameral conference committee that if the P10-billion fund would go to TIEZA, then it would be better for the Congress to allocate or give the amount instead to other sectors.

In her August 12, 2020 letter to legislators, Romulo-Puyat said: “If Congress deems it best not to give the whole amount to our tourism stakeholders, it can be allocated to other programs of other departments that would directly address public health current crisis instead of allocating it to TIEZA for infrastructure.”

In a related development, Quezon Rep. Mark Enverga, chairman of the House committee on agriculture and food, urged the Senate and House contingents in the Bayanihan 2 bicameral conference committee to work for the increase of the amount allocated as stimulus fund for agriculture and fisheries amid the coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) pandemic.

“While the measure is a positive step in addressing the effects of the pandemic, I am appealing for more fund allocation for the agriculture and fishery sector, hence this should be boosted and supported aggressively. Among the different sectors in economy, it is the agriculture sector that managed to grow by 5 percent in the second quarter of 2020, as it recorded increase in crops and fisheries production,” said Enverga.