Senators, congressmen still at loggerheads over P10-B fund for tourism industry

Senators and congressmen are still at loggerheads over the P10-billion proposed fund for the country's tourism industry under the proposed Bayanihan to Recover as One Act or the Bayanihan 2.

Senator Franklin Drilon (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)

Members of the bicameral conference committee resume Thursday their meeting to discuss the "complicated" differences in the Senate and House of Representatives' versions of the bill, specifically on the appropriation of funds for the recovery of pandemic-hit tourism enterprises.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, one of the members of the Senate contingent in the bicam panel, said both chambers stood pat on their respective position on where to allocate the P10 billion.

The Senate pushed to allocate the amount to finance loans programs for critically-impacted tourism businesses while the House wanted the funding for tourism infrastructure.

"Iyan po ang isa sa pinakaapektadong industriya ngayon. Sila ang tinamaan nang husto dahil walang domestic tourism. Sinikap namin sa Senado sa aming version na maglagay ng P10 billion tulong para sa kanila, ngunit ang version ng HOR ay ito ay infrastructure (This was the most affected industry today. They were hit the hardest because there was no domestic tourism. The Senate tried to to put P10 billion to help them, but the House version wanted it for infrastracture)," Drilon said in an interview on ABS-CBN Teleradyo on Aug. 20.

"Hindi po kami pumayag kasi para sa amin, hindi naman kailangan sa panahong ito ng infrastructure. Ang kailangan dahil naghihingalo ay 'yung mga loans para sa kumpanya. Ngunit pinipilit ng HOR (We did not agree because for us, infrastructure is not necessary in these times. What is needed by dying businesses are loans. But the HOR insists)," he added.

"Assuming na tama na ilagay 'yong P10 billion sa TIEZA, wala namang turista na pupunta ngayon at lalo lang mamatay "yung tourism enterprises (Assuming that they are correct to place the P10 billion in TIEZA, no tourists will go there still and tourism enterprises will just die)," he said.

To settle the dispute, Drilon said the senators, led by Senate Committee on Finance chair Sen. Sonny Angara, agreed to a compromise to set aside P1 billion of the P10 billion to TIEZA to at least grant their proposal for infrastructure projects, such as roads supposedly leading to tourism areas, P3 billion for subsidies to displaced workers in the tourism sectors, and P6 billion for loans to enterprises.

"Hindi pa rin pumayag ang HOR (The HOR still did not agree)," he said.

During their plenary session Wednesday, Senate President Vicente Sotto III instructed Angara to make sure that funds being proposed by the Senate for the tourism industry will remain intact.

Earlier, 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 their sector.

"Tourism enterprises ang mga tulungan, hindi 'yung mga kalsada na gusting buoin ng HOR sa panahon ngayon (We should be helping tourism enterprises, not the roads that the HOR wants to build in this time of crisis)," Drilon said.