Tourism leader sees more funding problems for the industry

Published August 27, 2020, 5:14 PM

by Hanah Tabios

While tourism stakeholders celebrate the victory of the approval of the financial aid under the Bayanihan To Recover as One Act or Bayanihan 2 measure, an industry key player sees more challenges lying ahead of the sector. 

Tourism Congress of the Philippines (TCP) president Jose Clemente III said they have to manage the expectations of the stakeholders as the amount was only a drop of what is really needed by the industry to recover. 

The Department of Tourism (DOT) and the TCP were originally pushing for a P10 billion direct funding to assist the collapsing tourism enterprises ranging from low interest loans as working capital, credit facilities, to building of COVID-19 testing facilities in key tourism areas earlier identified by the DOT. 

But based on the  proposed Bayanihan 2 measure passed by both houses of Congress, the lawmakers allocated P4 billion directly to the tourism department, wherein P1 billion will go the Tourism Road Infrastructure Programs of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and P3 billion for the implementation of cash-for-work programs under the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and for the unemployment and involuntary assistance for displaced workers and employees. 
An amount of P38.4 billion capital infusion was also allotted for the government funded institutions (GFIs), wherein P10 billion will allow tourism stakeholders, primarily micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), to apply for soft loans and interest subsidy under the COVID-19 Assistance to Restart Enterprises (CARES) program of the Small Business Guarantee and Finance Corporation (SBGFC) of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

But Clemente said the industry’s actual requirement for recovery is estimated at P80 billion. 

“Nevertheless, we will do our best to ensure that the funds are distributed as equitably as possible,” he said.

Now that the budget deliberations are over, the next step they are doing now is the formulation of the guidelines for the loans to be coursed through SBGFC  and the cash-for-work programs for the allocation to the labor department. 

“We are now working with DOT on that,” he added.

In a separate interview, DOT Undersecretary Benito Bengzon Jr. also stressed that their primary concern now is to ensure that the funds will be properly distributed to the tourism enterprises, which include accommodation and hotel establishments, travel and tour agencies, tourist transport operators, among others, to kickstart their recovery. 

“The important thing is to help our losing tourism enterprises and second, we need to help those employees who have been terminated or those who are under no work no pay or leave without pay setup,” Bengzon said in Filipino.  

“Under the approved Senate version, there is an approximate P6 billion earmarked under the [CARES] program of the Small Business Corporation,” he added. 

Based on the 2018 data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), 99.9 percent of the 144,640 establishments in accommodation and food service activities are considered micro, small and medium, which employs 921,292 workers or 95.8 percent in the said sector. 

Tourism stakeholders pointed out that about 40 percent MSMEs in the tourism industry have declared business closures with no revenue coming amid the pandemic. 

Clemente also previously said that the industry has now lost around P190 billion in terms of tourism revenue since the start of the lockdown in March until July, as compared to the figures recorded in the same period last year.