DOT vows support for Philippines’ tourism industry

The Philippine Department of Tourism (DOT) on Wednesday pledged its support for the travel and hospitality sector hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic, saying that it has lined up a host of incentives and will extend financial assistance to cushion the impact of the crisis on the industry.

The DOT’s statement was in response to an appeal from the Philippine Travel Agencies Association (PTAA) for relief and stimulus packages.

Philippine’s tourism board throws a lifeline to struggling tourism businesses; Boracay island pictured

Currently, the DOT said that it is in talks with the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) and the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) to provide rehabilitation financing support, such as extending low interest loans, for tourism enterprises that have been severely affected by the Covid-19.

The DOT noted that the DBP has already identified the tourism industry as eligible for its programme called Rehabilitation Support Program on Severe Events (RESPONSE), which aims to aid businesses affected by calamities.

The LBP will also assist tourism stakeholders under its programme called Rehabilitation Support to Cushion Unfavorably Affected Enterprises by Covid-19 (I-RESCUE) Lending Program.

Furthermore, the DOT has also made representation with the Social Security System, Pag-IBIG Fund, and PhilHealth for the deferment of tourism workers’ contributions.

“Upon these representations, Philhealth has agreed to extend the deadline to remit the members’ savings/contributions until two weeks after the lifting of the ECQ (enhanced community quarantine) without any penalty,” said DOT in a statement.

It added: “Pag-IBIG has also agreed to extend its deadline for payment of premium contributions for the first quarter of 2020 to April 30, 2020. Social Security System agreed to extend the deadline for the remittance of contributions until June 1, 2020.”

The DOT also said that it is liaising with the relevant government agencies for the requested deferment of corporate income tax payments by the Bureau of Internal Revenue, among other interventions.

Pertaining to the PTAA’s request for rent and utility discounts, travel agency commission from airlines, as well as salary and travel tour expo subsidies, the DOT said that “these are normally matters governed by contracts between private parties, and not subject to government intervention, but they can be a subject of legislation which can provide financing or subsidies”.

The tourism board added that it will raise all these issues with the Congress “which is also currently considering a bill granting a fiscal stimulus package to the tourism industry”.

In the same statement, tourism secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat highlighted that the DOT and its attached agencies had previously rolled out a series of measures to help tourism businesses early on in the outbreak.

This includes the implementation of a moratorium on the collection of accreditation fees from new and renewing applicants from Tourism Enterprises and Tourism-Related Enterprises for this year.

The DOT and the Tourism Promotions Board have also waived the participation fees for international fairs and exhibitions until the end of 2021, and mounted 20 sweeper flights to assist many of the travel trade’s clients to leave the country, among other initiatives.

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