P1.5-M 'ayuda' given to Intramuros tourism workers as visitors return

The Department of Tourism (DOT) distributed nearly P1.5 million in "ayuda" or cash aid to displaced tourism workers in the historic "Walled City" of Intramuros, Manila on Monday, May 17.

The activity coincided with the reopening of two popular sites in Intramuros, which was made possible by Metro Manila's recent switch to a more relaxed quarantine status.

WORKERS IN THE WALLED CITY — Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat leads the awarding of cash aid to heads and representatives of the 295 tourism workers in Intramuros who were displaced by the COVID-19 pandemic. These include 'carinderia' and ambulant vendors, security personnel, DOT-accredited pedicab drivers, janitorial services workers, and calesa drivers. (Ali Vicoy / MANILA BULLETIN)

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat led the ceremonial awarding of the financial assistance to the heads and representatives of the 295 tourism workers who have been approved to receive a one-time cash aid of P5,000 each.

These include 138 "carinderia" and ambulant vendors, 87 security personnel, 20 DOT-accredited pedicab drivers, 20 janitorial services workers, and 30 calesa drivers.

"This assistance is only a bridge to help, but what will ensure sustainability is the reopening of the district, which we are witnessing now," Puyat said during the rites held at the Rajah Sulayman Theater in Fort Santiago.

The cash assistance for Intramuros beneficiaries was provided for by the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act or the "Bayanihan 2", and funneled through the DOT and Department of Labor and Employment's (DOLE) cash assistance program.

The economic stimulus package allocated a total of P3 billion in direct cash assistance to workers in the tourism industry, including those in the informal sector who lost their livelihood as a result of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Apart from the financial aid, Puyat said the Intramuros Administration (IA) will also focus more on capacity-building by holding training and workshops for these informal tourism workers. This will equip them for the new normal business landscape, the DOT said.

The Urban Planning and Community Development Division of IA also extended assistance to pedicab drivers and vendors by facilitating their registrations and permits.

"Let us all welcome our visitors safely by wearing our face mask, face shield, and observing proper social distancing. This pandemic may have affected our plans and programs, but it will not deter us from showing the Filipino brand of service," Puyat added.

The tourism chief went on to make rounds at Fort Santiago and Baluarte de San Diego, which reopened its doors to the public Monday albeit on a limited capacity and shortened operating hours. It was the first time that the two sites accepted visitors since mid-March.

HELLO FROM INTRAMUROS — Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat visits Intramuros on Monday, May 17, 2021, as it reopens two of its most popular sites--Fort Santiago and Baluarte De San Diego--to the public. However, visitor capacity was limited and operating hours were shortened due to the ongoing pandemic. (Ali Vicoy / MANILA BULLETIN)

Last May 15, the National Capital Region (NCR) and the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal —collectively known as NCR-plus--switched to a general community quarantine (GCQ) "with heightened restrictions" from the previous modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ).

The guidelines of the Inter-agency Task Force on the Management of the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) say tourist attractions can operate at 30 percent of the venue capacity, subject to strict compliance with health and safety protocols.