In a joint meeting of the Committees on Economic Affairs and Tourism recently, Economic Affairs Chair Sharon Garin (Party-list, AAMBIS-OWA) expressed confidence that the Philippine tourism industry will soon recover from the COVID-19 (formerly known as the 2019 novel coronavirus) scare.

On the directive of House Speaker Alan Peter “Compañero” Cayetano, Garin and Tourism Committee Chair Sol Aragones (3rd District, Laguna) met with the representatives of various agencies, such as the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), Department of Tourism (DOT), Department of Health (DOH) Department of Finance (DOF) Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Bureau of Immigration (BI) to assess the effect of the COVID-19 threat on tourism and the whole economy and discuss plans to cushion its impact.

“We urge tourism stakeholders from the private sector to continue working with us so as to prevent the displacement of workers affected and the disruption of growth in the tourism industry,” said Cayetano.

The tourism industry accounted for 5.4 million jobs in the country in 2018, which was 1.8 percent higher compared to the 5.3 million jobs in 2017.

In an earlier statement, the veteran legislator stressed the importance of preparing a contingency plan in ensuring that the tourism growth of the country will not be derailed in the next few months. The seasoned lawmaker vowed to support initiatives to revitalize the tourism industry, which contributed 12.7 percent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product in 2018, and to promote domestic tourism in the Philippines.

In 2018, the Philippines registered 111 million domestic tourists in 2018, surpassing the 86 million domestic tourists target for 2022 under the National Tourism Development Plan. Domestic expenditure also grew to a whopping P3.2 trillion in 2018 from the P508.8 billion in 2009.

Tourism Committee Vice Chair Edgar Chatto (1st District, Bohol) also manifested confidence in the tourism industry, which contributes 10 percent to the global work force and global production.

“After this crisis, we will be able to bounce back.”

“We have been very resilient in the tourism sector even if we are threatened by disasters or threats like this. The tendency of the industry is really to rebound. It grows back. After this crisis, we will be able to bounce back,” said Chatto.

He agreed with Aragones when she said that right information and correct messaging are important in any crisis situation.

“We, in the House, hope to work hand-in-hand with the Executive and other sectors to find ways to cushion the effects of this outbreak.” 

Aragones, on the other hand, recognized the government’s efforts to prepare the country against the prejudicial effects of COVID-19 and to ensure the safety of the people.

“But while we hope this outbreak will be contained and controlled at the soonest time, we should also be adequately preparing for any eventuality. We, in the House, hope to work hand-in-hand with the Executive and other sectors to find ways to cushion the effects of this outbreak,” the veteran legislator said.

Meanwhile, Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat reassured the general public that efforts are being undertaken by the Department to soften the impact.

Romulo-Puyat added that meetings and consultations with tourism stakeholders from the private sector are being conducted and plans are being put into place.

The DOT and the private tourism sector, represented by the major airlines, the Tourism Congress of the Philippines, and the Philippine Hotel Owners Association, recently met with President Rodrigo Duterte to discuss their plans to roll-out more value-added packages, discounted accommodation rates, and marked-down prices for domestic flights.

Garin likewise manifested support to the DOT and commended the Department for addressing the concerns of the tourism industry. She asked for a copy of its reports so that the House can recommend measures as well.

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