The country’s tourism industry can look forward to the long-term benefits that will be brought by the P10-billion fund allocated to the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA), the infrastructure arm of the Department of Tourism (DOT), a House official said on Thursday.
Rep. Jonathan Sy-Alvarado of Bulacan, chair of the House of Representatives Committee on Good Governance and Public Accountability, said the fund “will unlock development in the tourism industry by boosting infrastructure and providing establishments the opportunity to work on tourist sites often neglected and lacking in facilities such as access roads, restrooms, and accommodation facilities.”
Alvarado said the House-approved version of "Bayanihan to Recover as One" or Bayanihan 2 provided the mechanisms on how tourism enterprises could avail themselves of the credit facilities through government financial institutions (GFIs).
Sy-Alvarado stressed the need for the government to prioritize the development of tourism infrastructure now while there were fewer tourists in the country and when Filipinos in far-flung tourist areas need employment during the COVID-19 pandemic.
He also seconded Deputy Speaker and Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte’s stand that infrastructure development would help combat the economic depression as it had long-term and multiplier effects.
For his part, Villafuerte, deputy speaker for finance, said the Bayanihan 2 bill once enacted would revive the tourism industry through a two-pronged strategy of providing wider access to credit facilities to tourism enterprises and building better tourism-related infrastructure.
"We are fully aware of the problems confronting the tourism industry, including the losses that they have incurred since the start of the travel restrictions early this year,” the Bicol lawmaker said.
"It should not be a choice between tourism infrastructure and additional working capital. Both will play equal importance in the recovery efforts of the sector. Thus, we included provisions to fulfill both requirements,” added Villafuerte.
Villafuerte also assured tourism stakeholders that Bayanihan 2 would allow tourism enterprises, including small-scale tourism-oriented enterprises accredited by local government units, to avail themselves of much-needed assistance through various credit facilities.
The P162-billion Bayanihan 2 stimulus package allocates P50 billion for government financial institutions (GFIs) such as the Land Bank of the Philippines (Landbank) and the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) for their respective credit programs to save distressed micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises in the hardest-hit sectors in the country, which include the tourism industry.
The proposed measure stipulates that the GFIs will administer the loans for the DOT subject to the department’s guidelines.
The measure also provides that the loan interventions will benefit accredited tourism enterprises, including small-scale tourism-oriented enterprises accredited by the local government units (LGUs).
"The tourism workers and the tourism enterprises serve as the backbone of our tourism industry. Hence the government will definitely give them priority in the credit facilities and other programs provided under the Bayanihan II,” Villafuerte said.
"By providing adequate investment in the tourism sector, we will aim not only for its survival but for its overall recovery and regeneration,” he added.
Defending the proposed Bayanihan 2 Act which the House passed on third and final reading last August 10, Sy-Alvarado said that while the P10-billion supposed “working capital” for the programs of the DOT was diverted to TIEZA, credit and loan programs for tourism stakeholders would still be accessible through the assistance of GFIs such as the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) and the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP).
“We value the tourism industry as much as we value all other sectors in the country, which is why aside from the P10-billion fund allocated for tourism infrastructure, we also allocated P51 billion to GFIs that can easily provide access to credit and loan programs to MSMEs, including small-scale tourism-oriented enterprises accredited by local government units,” Sy-Alvarado said.
“While we understand that the industry took one of the greatest hits when the pandemic struck, we would also like to remind everyone that we must still maintain balance in our pursuit of economic recovery. That includes considering our fiscal standing and our ability to create and fund programs that are inclusive for all sectors,” he added.