Tourism sector seeks P80-B rescue package, cites P190-B loss during quarantine period

Published August 12, 2020, 6:44 PM

by Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

The tourism sector has sought for an ₱80-billion rescue package from the government after incurring ₱190-billion losses during the five-month quarantine period.

In a webinar organized by the Philippine Tour Operators Association, Inc. (Philtoa), an organization of tour operators and allied members, Tourism Congress of the Philippines President Jojo Clemente III estimated the industry needs ₱80 billion to get back on their feet again.

Clemente said they lost ₱190 billion from March to July of this year alone. Comparatively, they earned ₱196 billion in revenues in that same period last year.

But their revenues only reached ₱7 billion in the five-month rolling lockdowns.

According to Clemente, the net loss would be far more than the ₱190 billion they incurred during the March-July period. The group was looking at 2020 as their banner year until it was hit hard by the global pandemic.

Overall, the Department of Tourism has reported that foreign tourist arrivals in the first seven months of this year reached only 1.3 million, a steep 73-percent decline from 4.64 million in the same period last year as the Philippines closed its borders starting mid-March to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

As a result, the tourist receipts hit only ₱81 billion or 72 percent lower than the ₱289.28 billion generated during the first seven months last year.

As they sought for a rescue package, tourism players were surprised at the decision to remove the planned ₱10-billion fund allocation from the industry and instead redirected to Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) for supposed development of tourism infrastructure projects.

Thus, they banded together yesterday to appeal for the restoration of the ₱10-billion allocation in the Bayanihan 2 stimulus package to its original intent.

Clemente said the changes in the Bayanihan 2 package surprised all of
them. The industry had been waiting for the passage of House Bill No. 6954, and Senate Bill No. 1564, proposed measures providing for COVID-19 response and recovery interventions and providing mechanism to accelerate the recovery and bolsters the resiliency of the Philippine economy.

Clemente said that the ₱10-billion fund allocation for the tourism sector was already provided for under Section 3 of the Bayanihan 2 or House Bill 6953.

The fund was supposed to be allocated to the industry in the form of soft loans. The industry was batting for lower interest rate, and a two-year grace period.

“We were taken aback late last week when informed that the ₱10-billion allocation for tourism was now allocated for infra development thru TIEZA,” Clemente said.

“We know most of us are hanging by a string and companies have terminated operations and if there is no intervention, many more will go
through that path,” he added.

In 2019, there were 109 million domestic travels, , a big boost to local tourism sector. Of the 12.7 percent overall tourism contribution to GDP,
10.8 percent comes from domestic tourism. The industry also employs 5.7
million people.

In their statement, the groups said that while they agree that the infrastructure development is vital to the tourism industry, they also believe that more urgent matter at this point in time is ensuring the survival of an industry on the verge of collapse due to the effect of the pandemic.

“We need direct infusions to the stakeholders in the form of zero to low
interest loans with longer payment periods to allow us to fully recover from the effects of COVID-19,” the statement said.

Infrastructure development can be done as conditions in the term as the tourism industry normalize.

“We, therefore, request that the amount appropriated for infrastructure development be uses instead to fulfill the provision in Section 3 pertaining to actions to be taken by the Department of Tourism and consistent with the Senate version of the bill,” they said.

The group said it is about time they get this vital financial aid from the government for the industry to survive as they look forward to the normalization of travel and tourism and prove once again they are vital for the Philippine economy.