Former Tourism secretaries say P10-B tourism industry revival fund should be alloted to DOT

Former Tourism secretaries have said that the P10-billion tourism industry revival fund should be alloted to the Department of Tourism, not to the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA).


In a Facebook post Sunday night, former Tourism Secretary Rafael Alunan III stressed that the funds for assistance intended for the recovery of the tourism industry should be lodged with the DOT, not the TIEZA.

“The difference is that the DOT has the direct link to the tourism industry. TIEZA’s mandate is to develop infrastructure needed by the tourism sector,” said Alunan, who served as Tourism Secretary from 1989 to 1992 during the administration of President Corazon Cojuangco Aquino. 

He included in his post excerpts of the letter sent by the Tourism Congress of the Philippines (TCP) dated Aug. 9 to House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano which mainly appeals for the reconciliation of the tourism-related provisions of the House Bill No. 6953 and its counterpart Senate Bill 1564 to directly provide the funding as working capital for tourism stakeholders who are navigating a difficult situation. 

“The country cannot afford a collapse of the tourism industry,” the letter said, highlighting also that tourism players expect some revival in 2021. 

Tagged in the post, Sen. Sonny Angara, who co-authored the Senate version of the bill, replied: “Yes, we prefer it goes straight to stakeholders. That’s in the Senate bill.”

Former DOT chief Gemma Cruz Araneta also backed the call of the tourism stakeholders. 

In an open letter to the public, she said: “As a former Secretary of the Department of Tourism, I am making this fervent appeal to the Senate of the Philippines (to) please listen to the desperate appeal of tourism stakeholders, the small and medium tourism enterprises that are dying and that need to survive this terrible pandemic. You can do this by respecting and abiding by the essence of Bayanihan 2.”

Araneta was appointed Secretary of Tourism from 1998 to 2001 during the time of President Joseph Ejercito Estrada. 

The Senate version appropriates P10 billion directly for tourism stakeholders to provide working capital loans through government financial institutions such as the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) and Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP).

The House version, however, simply allocates P10 billion “to finance the programs of TIEZA assisting the recovery of the tourism industry that shall include the provision of tourism infrastructure,” and allocating additional P100 million to finance the training and subsidies for tourist guides.

“However, there is no glaring need for infrastructure in the time of a deadly pandemic,” she said. “The tourism industry needs life support. We do not need to spend for new resorts during a pandemic. Tourism does not need new infrastructure nor does it need to train tour guides at a time like this.”

She also asserted the contribution of tourism to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), which recorded an all-time high 12.7 percent share in 2019.

“Moreover, Philippine tourism provides as many as 5.7 million Filipinos a source of decent livelihood,” she said. 

Former Tourism chief Narzalina Lim, the first woman who held the Cabinet post in 1989, also expressed her support to the embattled sector. She is now the president of the Asia Pacific Projects Inc. (APPI), a tourism consulting firm based in the Philippines. 

In an open letter to the public, she said the realignment of financial assistance to the tourism sector under the Bayanihan 2 measure is another brazen exercise to embed "pork barrel."

She also asked for public vigilance as the proposed measure  involves billions of pesos which, according to her, might go to the pockets of “unscrupulous” individuals who do not care a whit about the millions of suffering, hungry, and desperate Filipinos.  

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. backed the proposal of Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez to allocate the fund to DOT.

“You’re so right, Rufus. It should go to the Department of Tourism to revive the jobs lost. Putting it in infrastructure is a recipe for stealing,” the DFA chief said in a post on Twitter Thursday last week.