MANILA – House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Monday underscored the need to speed up processes to address the gaps in tourism infrastructure as the Philippines gradually reopens its economy.

Cayetano said the acceleration of tourism-related infrastructure could spur the country’s economic recovery after the coronavirus crisis has subsided.

“Talagang may mga challenges pero nakikita namin na may opportunity dito sa tourism (There are challenges ahead, but we see an opportunity in tourism), if we can put a big sum of money sa (in) tourism-related infrastructure,” Cayetano said.

“Merong mga systems that can be put in para kung one year or one year and a half o kahit two years abutin ang Covid, after that handang handa na ang ating bansa at bawat sulok ng ating bansa na may tourism industry to get back on track (There are systems that can be put in so that even after Covid-19 lasts for a year, a year and a half, or even two years, after that, our country and every part of it that has a tourism industry would be definitely ready to get back on track),” he added.

The House of Representatives approved on third reading the Accelerated Recovery and Investments Stimulus for the Economy (ARISE) bill, which aims to protect and assist up to 15.7 million workers, create 3 million short-term jobs, and 1.5 million infrastructure jobs over three years, and help up to 5.57 million micro, small, and medium enterprises.

Under the bill, an allocation of PHP58 billion is earmarked to revive the country’s tourism sector, which suffered serious losses due to the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), the tourism sector across the regions has lost an estimated total of PHP60.25 billion during the two-month enhanced community quarantine.

“With the passage of the stimulus package, we can help save lives and livelihood of the Filipinos and channel our investment to the hardest-hit sectors of the economy, such as the tourism sector,” Cayetano said.

The ARISE Bill stipulates that the Department of Tourism shall assist critically impacted businesses that are DOT–accredited tourism enterprises in any of the following programs: interest free-loans; credit facilities for upgrading of current establishments to be compliant with new health standards; marketing and product development promotions and programs; and grants for education and training for tourism stakeholder for new normal alternative livelihood programs.

Other proposed programs under the bill include the utilization of information technology for the improvement of tourism services, development of a tourist tracking system for emergency response, and establishment of spatial database to improve planning capacity; and any other relevant program, including infrastructure, necessary to mitigate the economic effects of Covid-19 on the tourism industry. (PNA)