Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon on Tuesday pressed the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to increase the budget of the Department of Tourism (DOT) for 2021, noting that the pandemic-stricken tourism industry, the second biggest contributor to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), has been receiving insufficient support from the government.
“Tourism is the second biggest contributor to the country’s GDP. Instead of rewarding and supporting the DOT and tourism enterprises, our national budget keeps on decreasing its support for the tourism industry,” Drilon said during the Senate hearing on the agency’s proposed 2021 budget.
Drilon noted that the tourism industry accounted for 12.7 percent of the country’s GDP in 2019 and employed 5.7 million workers. But despite the DOT’s proposed P4.9-billion budget, the DBM only approved a P3.52-billion budget for the agency for next year.
“The amount is insufficient given the sector’s contribution to the economy and its capability to bring back economic activities halted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Drilon stressed.
“We do hope that we could push tourism farther, especially at this time because tourism is the quickest way by which we can recover,”
“I will support an increase in the DOT budget to help revive the tourism sector. This is an industry that deserves our support. I hope our voices can be heard here,” the minority leader reiterated.
Drilon said he agrees with Sen. Richard Gordon’s observation that the national government’s support to the tourism industry is all but lip service as it is not reflected in the agency’s budget.
“There is no way that the policy thrust laid down by the DOT can be supported and sustained by the meager budget given by the DBM,” he said.
During the hearing, Drilon questioned why the whole the P10-billion allocation for the tourism sector under Bayanihan 2 has not been released yet by the DBM.
He said senators fought hard to keep the P10-billion allocation for the tourism sector, of which P6-billion would be for loans and interest subsidy under the Covid-19 Assistance to Restart Enterprises (CARES) program of the Small Business Guarantee and Finance Corporation under the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to assist micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs); P1-billion for the tourism road infrastructure programs under the DPWH; and P3-billion for the cash-for-work programs under the DOLE to assist displaced and unemployed tourism workers.
He said the DBM should release the funds immediately for the benefit of the tourism sector, more so considering that the Bayanihan 2 law will expire by December of this year.
“It is deplorable and inexcusable. When we were crafting Bayanihan 2, we stayed within the budget ceiling imposed by the Department of Finance. So why are there no releases? Are the funds to back up the appropriations under Bayanihan 2 not available?
“I cannot believe that Secretary (William) Dar and Secretary (Bernie) Romulo-Puyat are so negligent, or dumb, not to submit the appropriate Special Budget Requests,” said Drilon, commenting that even funds being asked by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) are also yet to be released.
“The farmers and the fisherfolk need it. The displaced workers and distressed MSMEs in the tourism industry need it. The appropriation authority under Bayanihan 2 expires on December 19, 2020, and therefore, DBM must release the budgets,” he stressed.