Laguna Rep. Sol Aragones, chairperson of the House Committee on Tourism, assured the tourism sector Thursday that access to loans that would help them recover from the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic remains available to them.
Aragones aired this assurance after leaders of the tourism sector chided authors of the Bayanihan to Recover as One bill (Bayanihan 2) for their decision to re-align for tourism infrastructure the P10 billion congressmen allegedly committed to tourism enterprises that absorbed the worst beating by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Former Tourism Secretary Narzalina Lim alerted the tourism sector to exercise utmost vigilance in ensuring that infrastructure projects are graft-free.
Aragones said the recently passed House version of the Bayanihan 2 did not delete the provisions granting working capital assistance to tourism stakeholders.
She stressed that enterprises that want to avail of funds to resuscitate their tourism-related business may still seek loan assistance from government financial institutions that will make available P51 billion under the bill.
The Laguna lawmaker revealed that Congress even stepped in when it learned that the tourism industry stakeholders had encountered difficulties in obtaining loans from banks under Bayanihan 1.
According to her, the experience will not happen again under the Bayanihan 2.
Aragones met with members of the Tourism Congress of the Philippines (TCP) to explain that the P10 billion allocated for tourism-related infrastructure projects under the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) would not deprive the sector of access to financial assistance. On top of the allocated funds, there is also P100 million to finance the training and subsidies for tourist guides.
She said that instead of the P10 billion that was originally proposed to be made available to tourism, troubled enterprises may get their share from the P51 billion loanable amount for various economically-distressed sectors.
According to Aragones, investing in tourism infrastructure has a multiplier effect that not only helps the tourism sector in the medium and long-term but also generates employment and much-needed economic activity in areas that are dependent on tourism but have been severely affected by worldwide travel restrictions.
Tourism stakeholders are appealing for a reconsideration of the House decision to re-align the P10 billion fund to infrastructure development. Despite the passage of the House and Senate version of Bayanihan 2, there remains a chance to amend frowned upon provisions when the two chambers meet in the bicameral conference committee.
Aragones said another meeting has been set by Congress with tourism stakeholders, GFIs, and the government economic team to further iron out details to ensure that the tourism sector will be able to access the loans faster, on top of a 365-day grace period for loans that has been integrated into the House version of Bayanihan 2.
“Congress recognizes the invaluable contributions of the tourism sector to our economy, and understand that helping it survive this pandemic is crucial if we want our economy to bounce back,” she said.