AAMBIS-OWA Party-list Rep. Sharon Garin on Tuesday said Congress was set to tackle several pieces of legislation that would cushion the impact of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in the tourism sector.
At the same time, Garin, chairperson of the House Committee on Economic Affairs, said she would meet with the House of Representatives’ Committee on Tourism headed by Laguna Rep. Sol Aragones to have government agencies concerned help legislators in assessing the short- and medium-term effects of the novel coronavirus in the tourism industry in order to come up with measures to address the looming problem.
“We need to coordinate with all the agencies concerned so that we can address what if we lose all this 20 percent of our tourists. What do we do? What are our alternatives? And we have yet to discuss that with the Department of Tourism,” Garin said.
With major stakeholders bracing for tourism industry losses of over P20 billion resulting from lower foreign visitor arrivals at the onset of the nCoV outbreak, Deputy Speaker LRay Villafuerte urged the DOT to make a more aggressive campaign to entice domestic tourists to visit local “hotspot” destinations, such as those for extreme sports and ecotourism, instead of going abroad once this viral threat subsides.
“As the tourism industry braces for a major hit with the timely imposition by President Duterte of a temporary travel ban to China and its territories Hong Kong and Macau, and to include all foreigners who have visited these areas over the past two weeks, it is time for the DOT to make a more aggressive push for domestic tourism among our countrymen once the current viral threat subsides, by selling to our countrymen our ‘hotspots,’ particularly the fave destinations for extreme sports and ecotourism,” Villafuerte, Camarines Sur’s Second District, said.
Garin said among the legislation that they would consider include the creation of economic zones that are expected to generate employment and investments that may be lost due to the loss in the number of tourists.
Garin voiced concern about the workers in the tourism industry who might lose jobs, thus her proposal to create move economic zones.
“This [decrease in the number of tourists] has a very substantial economic impact and we need to address that,” Garin said.
“This is a problem not only of China but of the rest of the world. We need to address this not only on the health side but also in the economic side so we really need to tackle this here in Congress especially economic affairs and tourism,” Garin said.
On Monday, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano urged the two committees to assess the short- and medium-term effects of the novel coronavirus on the tourism sector.
“It should not be a just a wait-and-see attitude because we don’t want our tourism industry to suffer,” Cayetano said.
Citing data from the Tourism department, Cayetano said 1.63 million of the total 7.4 million international tourist arrivals from January to November of 2019 were Chinese.
In addition, mainland Chinese are considered the second biggest tourist spenders in the Philippines next to the South Koreans, spending $979.4 million or around P51 billion in the first half of 2019.
The House also issued a health advisory to all its members, employees, and guests recommending the measures to follow to avoid contracting and the spread of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).
In an advisory issued by Secretary General Jose Luis Montales, members, employees, consultants, contractors, suppliers, visitors and guests are “highly recommended” to practice self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in the country if they have traveled to countries or territories with documented cases of the 2019-nCoV from Jan. 20 onwards.