Solon slams Zubiri

Migz Zubiri

A STALWART of the House of Representatives told Senate Majority Leadern Juan Miguel Zubiri on Sunday to cease from saying one thing and mean something else for claiming no ill will towards the House contingent to the bicameral conference (bicam) panel.

Kabayan party-list Rep. Ron Salo, head of the contingent to the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET), said Zubiri’s actual remarks had virtually disparaged his peers in the bigger chamber as well as the consolidated version of the Bayanihan to Recover as One bill (Bayanihan 2) that the Senate already ratified last week.

Salo rejected Zubiri’s defense that the senator-panelist comment was “pure advocacy” and “no personal motives” in the bicam talks.”

“Zubiri must be in dreamland during the Senate’s Thursday plenary when he unabashedly claims now that he didn’t have any disparaging remarks about the Senate’s House counterparts in the bicam panel and had even defended the congressmen, because there was a howl of protest from Sen. Pia Cayetano who didn’t find funny the comments made by Zubiri and certain other senators about their peers in the House,” Salo said.

He noted that Senator Cayetano had berated her colleagues for insinuating that the House had an ulterior motive in proposing the P10 billion infrastructure fund for the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) in the Bayanihan 2 bill.

Media reports quoted Cayetano as saying that she did not find it "funny" when some senators made such insinuations on the floor, even if it was supposed to be meant as a joke because "these people mean well, they want to also take care of our constituents the way we also wanted to."

“So what in heaven’s name did Senator Cayetano gripe about if Sen. Zubiri’s rebuttal that he didn’t denigrate the House panelists in the bicam committee—and had in fact even defended them—were true as he now claims?” he stressed. Rep. Salo explained, meanwhile, that the House contingent to the bicam committee had stuck during the talks to its original position on the urgent need for infrastructure investments in the badly-hit tourism sector because the key to a quick economic recovery under any stimulus plan, such as the one being proposed in Bayanihan 2, is state-led spending, particularly on infrastructure development.

“Given the high multiplier impact of infrastructure investments on the economy, infrastructure spending would immediately stimulate growth, create jobs and therefore boost consumer confidence, leading to a rebound in household consumption, which has largely fuelled the Philippine economy” he said. “What the industry needs right now are jobs for many of the 5.7 million tourism industry workers who have lost their jobs temporarily or permanently because of the global economic slump wrought by the coronavirus pandemic,” Rep. Salo said. “And such a myriad of instant jobs would come only from infrastructure investments,” he added.

Besides, Salo said it remains uncertain at this time whether tourism industry players, especially the small enterprises or resort owners, would be keen on borrowing money to revive their businesses when the recovery of both the international and domestic tourism appears bleak in the absence of a cure or vaccine against the lethal COVID-19.

He pointed out that many tourism businesses would likely be averse to investing or borrowing money to revive their businesses right now, as the recovery of this industry, which depends heavily on international and domestic travel, does not appear in sight yet.

“In fact the World Health Organization (WHO), in its latest assessment, does not see the pandemic going away over the next years,” he added.

Moreover, Salo said the near-term outlook for Philippine aviation does not look encouraging either, considering the reported projections of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) that air passenger volume for 2020 wouldn’t reach half of the 4.53 billion air travellers recorded in 2019.

There are even speculations from aviation experts, he added, that it would take three to four years for the air transport sector to stage a full recovery.