By Hanah Tabios
The Department of Tourism (DOT) has assured the continued operations of Duty Free stores nationwide amid reports of its impending shutdown and lay off of hundreds of its employees due to plummeting sales brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The dissolution or permanent cessation of operations of the DFPC (Duty Free Philippines) are definitely not options on the table as we address the impact of global travel restrictions on our business performance. The continued employment of our workers remains a top priority,” said Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, who also chairs the DFPC Board of Directors.
Reports had it that DFPC’s cash balance as of March this year is estimated at P1.3 billion. But with its temporary business closure due to quarantine protocols, its projected fiscal deficit might reach up to P89 million until the end of June. As a travel retailer, DFPC’s operations rely on tourism and passenger traffic, mostly diplomats, returning Filipinos or “balikbayan,” and foreign travelers to the country.
A document obtained by the Manila Bulletin also showed that management had issued a memorandum dated May 29, ordering the eventual permanent closure of its provincial international airport outlets in Bacolod, Davao, Iloilo, Clark in Pampanga, and Kalibo in Aklan.
But Puyat said shutting down DFPC is not an option.
The tourism chief had also sent a letter to DFPC’s Chief Operating Officer Vicente Angala Jr. asking for a detailed explanation “on how the resources have been quickly depleted in a span of two months since its temporary suspension of operations in March after the national government imposed the massive travel restrictions.”
The DOT also sent a letter to the Department of Justice to seek guidance on possible measures in keeping the corporation afloat and ensure the well-being of its workers during this difficult period.
But on June 21, the DFPC released a statement that management is now reconsidering permanent store closure plans after the government eased travel restrictions and started reopening air travel.
The decision was released to all DFPC stakeholders through a memorandum issued by DFPC Deputy Chief Operating Officer Bernardine Belmonte, dated June 15.