MANILA – Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte said on Thursday the proposed PHP10-billion allocation for tourism infrastructure projects under the House-approved Bayanihan to Recover As One (Bayanihan 2) bill would significantly boost economic activity and employment in the pandemic-hit tourism sector.
In a statement, Villafuerte said House Bill 6953 seeks to allocate PHP10 billion to finance the infrastructure programs of the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA), which is expected to generate around PHP35 billion in economic activity for the tourism industry and create thousands of jobs for its displaced workers.
Villafuerte stressed the need to expedite the building of tourism infrastructure projects while tourist destinations are not yet fully operational because of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.
“Bayanihan 2 is just the initial stimulus outlay for the recovery of the tourism sector as there would be further allocations for the DOT (Department of Tourism) and the tourism industry in the proposed General Appropriations Act of 2021,” he said.
Refuting the proposal of Tourism Congress of the Philippines president Jose Clemente III, Villafuerte argued that providing dole-outs directly to private firms in the tourism sector is not allowed under the law, noting that the needed-funding assistance can be granted in the form of loans.
Wider access to credit facilities
Aside from building better tourism-related infrastructure toward tourism recovery, Villafuerte said part of the two-pronged strategy under Bayanihan 2 is to provide wider access to credit facilities to tourism enterprises, including small-scale tourism-oriented enterprises accredited by local government units.
“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,” he 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.”
The bill seeks to allocate around PHP51 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, including the tourism industry.
The proposed measure stipulates that the GFIs will administer the loans for the DOT subject to the department’s guidelines.
“By providing adequate investment in the tourism sector, we will aim not only for its survival but for its overall recovery and regeneration,” he said.
Unlocking dev’t in tourism industry
Meanwhile, House Committee on Good Governance and Public Accountability chairman Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado said the PHP10-billion funding for TIEZA 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.
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 pandemic.
He also echoed Villafuerte’s stand that infrastructure development will help combat the economic depression as it has long-term and multiplier effects.
“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 said.
“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,” he added.
Sy-Alvarado noted that Congress will also work on other stimulus bills that will go “hand-in-hand” with Bayanihan 2, as well as the deliberations on the proposed 2021 national budget. (PNA)