Tourism, in Death Throes

Manila Bulletin, August 19, 2020 | Go to article overview

Tourism, in Death Throes


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At this writing, the venerable Senate of the Philippines and the House of Representatives are about to have a bicameral meeting about what to do with the P162-billion pandemic fund provided by  the Bayanihan 2 bill. I was informed that P10 billion has been earmarked for our tourism industry which is in death throes because of COVID-19. However, four congressmen are determined to finagle the amount to fund personal projects that will definitely not resuscitate Philippine tourism. Their scheme is all too familiar,  so I feel I have to say something.

I wrote an appeal and sent it to the Tourism Congress, an umbrella organization of private sector tourism stake- holders,  created by Republic Act 9593,  the Tourism Act of 2009. This is what I wrote:

HONORABLE SENATORS, PLEASE LISTEN TO THE DESPERATE APPEAL OF TOURISM STAKEHOLDERS, THE SMALL AND MEDIUM TOURISM ENTERPRISES THAT ARE DYING AND THAT NEED TO SURVIVE THIS TERRIBLE PANDEMIC. YOU CAN DO THIS BY RESPECTING AND ABIDING BY THE ESSENCE OF BAYANIHAN 2.

To the dismay  of tourism stakeholders, four members of the House of Representatives - Congressmen Luis Raymund "Lray" Villafuerte, Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, Michael Defensor, and Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado - are  distorting the spirit of  Bayanihan 2 because they want to  allocate the P10 billion meant for the tourism industry "to finance the programs of the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) assisting the recovery of the tourism industry that shall include the provision of tourism infrastructure." An additional, P100 million is being allocated to finance the training and subsidies for tourist guides.

As you know, the TIEZA, formerly PTA (Philippine Tourism Authority) was created during the Marcos administration to serve as the infrastructure arm of a then newly created Department of Tourism. Today, however, there is no glaring need for new infrastructure that will purportedly assist in "the recovery of the tourism industry." In the time of a deadly pandemic, that is not what the tourism industry needs to survive.

My heartfelt thanks to Congressman Rufus Rodriguez of the Centrist Democratic Party (2nd district of Cagayan de Oro City) for appealing to the bicam to give the P10 billion to the Department of Tourism and not to TIEZA.

The Department of Tourism consulted the Tourism Congress whose members said that what they most need to survive are soft loans from government banks that will help them sustain their businesses, while the sector is comatose. …

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