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Ex-Tourism chiefs voice concern over House version of Bayanihan 2

Former secretaries of the Department of Tourism (DOT) over the weekend voiced their concerns about the lower chamber's version of the proposed Bayanihan to Recover As One Act, citing issues on allocation for tourism infrastructure.

In a statement, former Tourism Secretary Gemma Cruz Araneta questioned the House of Representatives' allocation of P10 billion for tourism infrastructure under Bayanihan II.

This comes as the Bayanihan II version of the House of Representatives allocates P10 billion for the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone (TIEZA).

"As you know, the TIEZA, formerly PTA [Philippine Tourism Authority] is supposed to be the infrastructure arm of the Department of Tourism. However, there is no glaring need for infrastructure in the time of a deadly pandemic," said Araneta.

"The P10 billion should be deposited in the Land Bank so the small and medium tourism enterprises can avail of soft loans that will help them survive," she elaborated.

The House of Representatives approved the measure on third and final reading last Monday. It is principally authored by Representatives Luis Raymund "LRay" Villafuerte, Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, Michael Defensor, and Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado.

"If these names sound familiar to you, look at the list of Congressmen who voted against granting ABS-CBN its franchise," former Tourism Secretary Narzalina Lim said in a separate statement.

She was referring to the vote of a House of Representatives panel to deny the network's franchise application, even as several government agencies such as the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and the Department of Justice (DOJ) maintained that the broadcaster had no violations.

"To me, this is nothing but another shameless and brazen exercise to embed pork barrel in Bayanihan Act II. The tourism industry does not need tourism infrastructure at this time when destinations are closed," said Lim.

"Before the tourist pandemic, the DOT had already identified key infrastructure needed by tourist destinations and the funding for these. P100 million for training of tourist guides? There are no tours. What the industry needs is to remove tourism enterprises from life support," she added.

For its part, the Senate approved its counterpart version of the Bayanihan II last month.

In its Senate version, the P10-billion for the tourism sector is in assistance in the form of low-interest loans, loan guarantees, and credit facilities. — BM, GMA News