Tourism stakeholders have asked Congress to reconsider its decision to allocate P10 billion for tourism infrastructure projects instead of using it as a credit fund that the industry badly needs.
During Wednesday's Philippine Tourism Stakeholders Forum, Tourism Congress of the Philippines resident Jose Clemente III warned that micro, small and medium enterprises engaged in the tourism sector are already on the verge of collapse after bearing the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting travel restrictions that were imposed.
“We made the point clear that is not the immediate need of the industry," Clemente said.
He recalled his conversation with Deputy Speaker Luis Villafuerte where the latter insisted that the P10 billion fund will be spent for infrastructure projects under the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (Tieza) in the Bayanihan 2 bill instead of financial aid through loans.
"What we need now is financial assistance. When you come to think about it, P10 billion is just a drop in the bucket," he added, citing the losses of the tourism sector since the health crisis broke out early this year and lockdown protocols were imposed.
Clemente said while infrastructure projects have a multiplier effect, the immediate goal must be to save the industry.
According to Cesar Cruz, president of the Philippine Tour Operators Association Inc., some 40 percent of MSMEs have already closed shop because of the pandemic.
“Sagad na ang lahat ng kapital ng mga MSMEs,” Cruz said
For his part, Philippine Travel Agencies Association president Ritchie Tuano urged local government units to give tax breaks to help tourism-related businesses recover.