Senate, House differ on how to help pandemic-ravaged tourism industry

The Senate is standing firm on its proposal to allocate P10 billion to assist pandemic-hit tourism businesses and stakeholders under the proposed Bayanihan 2 law. 

The members of the House of Representatives, meanwhile, wanted the amount to finance tourism infrastructure.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Wednesday instructed Senator Juan Edgardo "Sonny" Angara to make sure that the funds being proposed by the Upper Chamber for the tourism sector are "intact."

The Senate and House of Representatives' "Bayanihan to Recover as One" bills are being deliberated by the bicameral conference committee.

Congress is expected to come up with a final version of the so-called Bayanihan 2 on Wednesday night or Thursday morning at the latest, said Angara, who leads the Senate finance committee and the Senate contingent in the bicam panel.

Angara said the matter will be among the provisions to be discussed last "because we know there is a real, genuine difference of opinion" between the Senate and the House.

"But rest assured we will do as you instructed us to do," he told Sotto.

"You can inform members of the House that when it comes to that, we want to make sure that it will be for the good of the country, and, you know sometimes, my nickname is 'Stonewall Jackson'," Sotto responded.

The Department of Tourism (DOT), its former chiefs and tourism groups have appealed for the retention of the Senate's P10-billion proposed allocation to  finance the programs for assisting critically impacted tourism businesses.

The Lower Chamber, on the other hand, had proposed to directly give the fund to the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) for tourism infrastructure, which congressmen believe was a better stimulus for the tourism industry.

The Senate is set to ratify the Bayanihan 2 bill on Thursday, August 20.