Senators back increase in Tourism dept’ budget

Published October 22, 2020, 2:37 PM

by Hanah Tabios

The Department of Tourism has welcomed the call of several senators to increase the department’s budget for the 2021 fiscal year.

As stipulated in the National Expenditure Program (NEP) for 2021, a total of P3.841 billion is allocated for the DoT for 2021. The amount of P3.52 billion is assigned to the DoT and its regional offices, and the remaining P90.3 million and P230 million to its attached agencies, the Intramuros Administration, and the National Parks Development Committee, respectively.

During Monday’s Senate budget hearing, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon called on his fellow legislators to increase the DoT’s budget.

Sen. Joel Villanueva pointed out the importance of tourism in job generation and the recovery of the hardest-hit economy amid the unprecedented crisis brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The DoT welcomes the support of the legislators to increase the budget and it will make do with whatever amount is approved, to be utilized with utmost caution and prudence,” Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said in a message.

Prior to this, congressmen also advocated an increase in the department’s budget, restoring the originally proposed P4.43 billion in recognition for the tourism industry’s contribution to the national economy.

But the Tourism chief previously said that despite the budget cut, the department will maximize the use of its resources and work together to accelerate recovery.

She said the DoT still has a remaining P2.128 billion out of the P3.8 billion approved budget for the 2020 fiscal year. However, P1.48 billion has been given up by the Tourism department to aid the national government in addressing the pandemic pursuant to the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act (Bayanihan 2).

Meanwhile, Sen. Nancy Binay, Senate tourism committee chair, has reservations in reopening domestic tourism amid health risk.

But Puyat assured that the health and safety of travelers, as well as the constituents of the concerned local government units (LGUs), will never be sacrificed.

“The reopening of destinations rests on the decision of the local government executives, premised on the readiness of the local government units and stakeholders to strictly implement health and safety protocols,” she said.

Puyat also responded to the criticisms of Sen. Imee Marcos during the budget hearing where the senator suggested replacing the “ugly” and old ad campaigns, as well as to develop new tourism products, rather than creating promotional plugs “when there is nothing to promote” amid the pandemic.

“The development and placement of promotional content are intended to inspire Filipinos to travel locally, communicate the health and safety protocols in travel, and support various LGUs in branding and marketing their respective attractions and tourism products,” the Tourism chief said.

“Consequently, ongoing is the conduct of market intelligence and participatory planning with stakeholders on product development to generate new offerings that would address the expectations and changes in travel preference and behavior.”