Long-term benefits of P10B TIEZA fund cited

HOUSE committee on good governance and public accountability chairman Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado on Thursday said the country’s tourism industry can look forward to the long-term benefits that will be brought by the P10-billion fund allocated to the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA), the infrastructure arm of the Department of Tourism (DoT).

Sy-Alvarado said the fund “will unlock development in the tourism industry by boosting infrastructure and providing establishments the opportunity to work on tourist sites often neglected and lacking in facilities such as access roads, restrooms, and accommodation facilities.”

He said the House-approved version of "Bayanihan to Recover as One" or Bayanihan 2 provides the mechanisms on how tourism enterprises can avail themselves of the credit facilities through government financial institutions (GFIs).

Sy-Alvarado said the government should prioritize the development of tourism infrastructure now while there are fewer tourists in the country and when Filipinos in far-flung tourist areas need employment during the COVID-19 pandemic.

He also seconded Deputy Speaker and Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte’s stand that infrastructure development will help combat the economic depression as it has long-term and multiplier effects.

Defending the proposed Bayanihan 2 Act which the House passed on Third and Final Reading on August 10, Sy-Alvarado said that while the P10-billion supposed “working capital” for the programs of the DOT was diverted to TIEZA, credit and loan programs for tourism stakeholders will still be accessible through the assistance of GFIs such as the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) and the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP).

Under Bayanihan 2, an amount of P51 billion will be allocated to GFIs with the following breakdown: P5 billion for the credit guarantee program of the Philippine Guarantee Corporation; P30 billion and P15 billion to support banking facilities and equity infusion of the LBP and the DBP, respectively; and P1 billion as additional funding for the COVID-19 Assistance to Restart Enterprises (CARES) Program of the Small Business Corporation and for its other lending programs to be extended to micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

“We value the tourism industry as much as we value all other sectors in the country, which is why aside from the P10-billion fund allocated for tourism infrastructure, we also allocated P51 billion to GFIs that can easily provide access to credit and loan programs to MSMEs, including small-scale tourism-oriented enterprises accredited by local government units,” Sy-Alvarado said.

“While we understand that the industry took one of the greatest hits when the pandemic struck, we would also like to remind everyone that we must still maintain balance in our pursuit of economic recovery. That includes considering our fiscal standing and our ability to create and fund programs that are inclusive for all sectors,” he added.

Sy-Alvarado said the House of Representatives will maintain close relations with the DOT, TIEZA, and tourism stakeholders in the crafting of programs to support the tourism industry’s recovery and the overall recovery of the national economy.

“The Bayanihan 2 is not the be-all and end-all of our COVID-19 response. It is very essential and crucial, but it is only part of a bigger master plan that we have in the House of Representatives. We still have the upcoming discussions and budget hearings for the 2021 national budget and other stimulus bills that will go hand-in-hand with it, so all stakeholders and the public do not have to worry as all of these are directed to the recovery of our economy,” he said.

The House-approved version of the "Bayanihan to Recover as One” or Bayanihan 2 seeks to revive the tourism industry through a two-pronged strategy of providing wider access to credit facilities to tourism enterprises and building better tourism-related infrastructure. Villafuerte assured tourism stakeholders that Bayanihan 2 will allow tourism enterprises, including small-scale tourism-oriented enterprises accredited by local government units, to avail themselves of much-needed assistance through various credit facilities.

He said the bill also provides a P10-billion allocation for the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) of the Department of Tourism (DOT) to address the infrastructure gaps in the tourism sector.

"We are fully aware of the problems confronting the tourism industry, including the losses that they have incurred since the start of the travel restrictions early this year,” the Bicol lawmaker said.

"It should not be a choice between tourism infrastructure and additional working capital. Both will play equal importance in the recovery efforts of the sector. Thus, we included provisions to fulfill both requirements,” he added.

The P162-billion Bayanihan 2 stimulus package allocates P50 billion for government financial institutions (GFIs) such as the Land Bank of the Philippines (Landbank) and the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) for their respective credit programs to save distressed micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises in the hardest-hit sectors in the country, which includes the tourism industry.

The proposed measure stipulates that the GFIs will administer the loans for the DOT subject to the department’s guidelines. The measure also provides that the loan interventions will benefit accredited tourism enterprises, including small-scale tourism-oriented enterprises accredited by the local government units (LGUs).

"The tourism workers and the tourism enterprises serve as the backbone of our tourism industry. Hence the government will definitely give them priority in the credit facilities and other programs provided under the Bayanihan II,” Villafuerte said.

"By providing adequate investment in the tourism sector, we will aim not only for its survival but for its overall recovery and regeneration,” he added.

Villafuerte said there is a need to expedite the building of tourism infrastructure projects while tourist destinations are not yet fully operational because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

He noted that even prior to the health crisis, many tourism sites have had inadequate comfort room facilities, inaccessible roads networks, and poor accommodation facilities.

"Bayanihan 2 is just the initial stimulus outlay for the recovery of the tourism sector as there would be further allocations for the DOT and the tourism industry in the proposed General Appropriations Act (GAA) of 2021,” he said.

He said this is apart from the allotments in the two House-approved stimulus bills — House Bill (HB) 6709 or the P1.5-trillion COVID-19 Unemployment Reduction Economic Stimulus (CURES) Act and HB 6815 or the P1.3-trillion Accelerated Recovery and Investments Stimulus for the Economy (ARISE) bill.

Villafuerte said the House of Representatives remains committed to partnering with the DOT, its attached agencies, and the other tourism stakeholders to restore the momentum of growth in the tourism sector and promote its sustainability.