The Department of Tourism (DOT) has so far provided a total of P267.970 million in aid to about 53,594 displaced tourism workers in Central Luzon (Region 3).
Each beneficiary received P5,000 cash assistance under the Covid-19 Adjustment Mitigation Program II of the agency, which was channeled through the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).
Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat shared in a virtual presser that based on the previous guidelines, only employees of DOT-accredited enterprises qualify for the aid, which include workers in hotels, resorts, inns, and Mabuhay accommodations; as well as servers and dishwashers in restaurants.
“However, we saw that tourism is not just confined in the hotel industry. That’s why we asked DOLE in February to expand the definition. For example, in Boracay, everyone benefits from tourism so we included the tricycle drivers, massage therapists, and live entertainers because they all make a living because of tourism. So that’s what we do in all tourist destinations all over the country,” Puyat said.
Pampanga has the most beneficiaries with 21,154 workers followed by Bulacan with 14,935 workers; Bataan, 5,290 workers; Aurora, 4,409 workers; Tarlac, 3,791 workers; Zambales, 2,521 workers; and Nueva Ecija, 1,494 workers.
Aside from providing aid to displaced workers, Puyat said they also crafted a tourism response and recovery plan with the private sector to cushion the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“They said they need working capital to restart their businesses. We are lucky that under Bayanihan 2, DOT got P6 billion for loan programs. However, because our primary mandate is on promotion, accreditation, and training, we partnered with the Small Business Corporation to push for this program,” she disclosed.
The program covers hotels, resorts, restaurants and travel agency operators.
Under it, tourism-related business establishments can avail of the loan payable within four years, with zero collateral and zero interest rate, and has a one-year grace period.
“The beauty of the one-year grace period is that if they avail of this loan this year, they can pay the following year. They are not required to pay their debt right away. This is in consideration of the volatility of the situation and the Covid cases,” Puyat said.
Part also of DOT’s initiatives is to recreate health and safety protocols from scratch for the tourism sector.
“When the pandemic started, there was no health and safety protocol not only in the Philippines but around the world. What we did is we crafted one for accommodation establishments, hotels, resorts, Mabuhay accommodations, and inns. We also have health and safety protocols for tourist land transport, for a tourist destination, for sand and beach. We did all that first in preparation for the opening of various tourist destinations,” she shared.
Moreover, DOT is continuously providing online trainings for tourism frontliners under the new normal.
“Our latest online training series is on Covid-19 vaccination. We had one of that already but we are planning to roll it out across all regions,” she said.
In 2019, the tourism sector contributed 12.7 percent in the country’s gross domestic product, generating 5.7 million jobs. However, due to the pandemic, about 4.8 million tourism workers were either displaced or shifted on a flexible working arrangement.