Tourism groups urge Bayanihan 2 bicam to retain P10-billion loan facility

Tourism groups urged the bicameral conference committee on the Bayanihan to Recover as One (Bayanihan 2) bill to retain the P10-billion credit facility that would help revive the industry.

In a statement on Wednesday, August 19, the Tourism Congress of the Philippines, along with 51 associations in the sector, expressed support for the Senate version of the Bayanihan 2 bill.

"We are drowning in a stormy sea and we need a lifeline NOW (emphasis theirs). We cannot wait for a new boat to be built to rescue us," the groups said.

The upper chamber's version of the bill earmarked P10 billion for programs under the Department of Tourism (DOT), which would assist businesses in the hard-hit industry.

The bill's counterpart at the House of Representatives, meanwhile, provided P10 billion for the programs of the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority and another P100 million for training and subsidies to tourist groups.

"We sincerely believe that the tourism infrastructure program envisioned by the House version of Bayanihan 2, while necessary in the long run for recovery of the tourism industry, will not provide us with the relief that the industry urgently needs now," the groups said.

They added that they are not asking for a dole-out, but rather a credit line that would help tide them over.

"The tourism industry is made up of 70% MSMEs (micro, small, and medium enterprises) and have been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Travel restrictions for the most of the first half of the year pushed us to the brink of bankruptcy and will surely nudge us over the edge in the coming weeks with no intervention by the government," they said.

The bicam is in the last stretch of deliberations, with final agreements set to be done later on Wednesday. The total amount available for pandemic response under the bill remains at P140 billion, with a P22-billion "standby fund."

Senate President Vicente Sotto III urged Senator Sonny Angara to keep the "DOT funding intact" during the bicam deliberations.

"That's well taken, Mr President. It's one of the items that is left to the last because there is a real difference of opinion – [to] put it mildly, Mr President. But rest assured that we will do as you instructed us to do," Angara said during Wednesday's session.

Philippine tourism revenues dipped by 71.5% for the first 7 months of the year, as receipts from April to July were down to zero.

Travel restrictions locally and around the world, coupled by quarantine protocols in the Philippines that banned tourism, have affected around 4.8 million industry workers. –

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.