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Get set for tourism revival — Cayetano

SPEAKER Alan Peter Cayetano is pushing for the acceleration of tourism-related infrastructure in a bid to boost the tourism industry once the situation returnsto normal.

Cayetano said tourism-related infrastructure should be completed as the country works to gradually reopen the economy following the pandemic caused by coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

The Speaker urged the Department of Tourism (DOT) to study the best practices of the other countries in reviving their tourism sectors.

“Talagang may mga challenges pero nakikita namin na may opportunity dito sa tourism, if we can put a big sum of money sa tourism-related infrastructure,” he said.

While there are still restrictions in the tourism activities, he underscored the need to speed up processes to address the gaps in tourism infrastructure.

“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,” he added.

Before the session adjourned, the House of Representatives passed the Accelerated Recovery and Investments Stimulus for the Economy (ARISE) on third reading 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.

The Lower House is proposing to earmark P58 billion to revive the country’s tourism sector, which suffered serious losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Based on the estimate of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), the tourism sector across the regions has lost a total P60.25 billion during the two-month enhanced community quarantine.

The ARISE Bill stipulates that the DOT and its instrumentalities shall assist critically impacted businesses that are DOT–accredited tourism enterprises in any of the following programs: (a) interest free-loans or issuance of loan guarantees with terms of up to five years of maintenance and operating expenses; (b) credit facilities for upgrading of current establishments to be compliant with new health standards; (c) marketing and product development promotions and programs; (d) grants for education, training, and advising for tourism stakeholder for new normal alternative livelihood programs; (e.) 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 (f) any other relevant program, including infrastructure, necessary to mitigate the economic effects of COVID-19 on the tourism industry.

“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 added.

Other Southeast Asian countries have initiated tourism sector-targeted aid as part of their national COVID-19 response packages.

Reports said that Thailand is offering up to 100 billion baht in soft loans for tourism operators, while debt suspensions and interest rates reductions can be requested by those who do not need fresh funds. Malaysia approved a wide range of measures, including a US$43 million micro-credit scheme for small businesses in the tourism industry and six-month tax deferment for travel agencies, hotels, airlines and other businesses in the tourism industry starting April 1, 2020.