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NEDA: Tourist arrivals in the Philippines to drop by 1.42M amid COVID-19 situation

The Philippines stands to lose billions of pesos in the tourism industry if the number of tourist arrivals in the country continues to dwindle amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) situation in the country, an official of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said Monday.

"If, for instance, this goes on until June then we're looking at reduction in tourist arrivals of 1.42 million and then 'yung foregone GVA (gross value added) is P93 to 187 billion," NEDA Undersecretary Rosamarie Edillon said in a Senate hearing.

She underscored that Chinese visitors account for 22% of tourist arrivals in the Philippines.

Further, about 30,000 to 50,000 jobs may be lost amid the COVID-19 threat, according to Edillon.

Gross domestic product (GDP) growth may also be limited in the range of 5.5% to 6.5% due to the situation, compared to the initial target growth of 6.5% to 7.5% this year, she said.

More than a week ago, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Benjamin Diokno said he is confident that the country will hit a 6% GDP growth this year despite the COVID-19 scare.

On the other hand, Senator Imee Marcos, who led a Senate hearing on the possible economic impact of COVID-19, said the actual job losses could affect up to 250,000 employees, citing data from the Asian Development Bank.

"Huwag natin minamasahe 'yung mga numero," she added, noting that those working in factories and economic zones will also be affected.

Travel sector asking for help

Amid the ongoing travel restrictions, the aviation sector is also asking for government assistance.

Air Carriers Association of the Philippines executive director Atty. Roberto Lim appealed for the cancellation of travel tax and navigational charges.

He underscored that the local airline industry pays about P500 million per month for navigational, landing, and take off charges which is equivalent to around P6 billion a year.

Airlines in the country have already canceled 32 routes which resulted in the cancellation of over 8,000 local and international flights, according to Ramos.

The industry already lost P3 billion for flight refunds alone, he stressed.

"Given the uncertainty of the duration of this contagion and the fear that it instills in the travelling public, the losses keep on mounting," Ramos said.

The Philippines recently imposed travel restrictions on countries heavily hit by COVID-19 such as China, Macau, Hong Kong, and South Korea to prevent the further spread of the virus.

Despite these precautionary measures, the Department of Health confirmed that the Philippines already has local transmission of COVID-19 after a 62-year-old man who has no travel history abroad tested positive for the virus. 

To date, the Philippines has recorded 10 cases of the COVID-19. — RSJ, GMA News