Delayed payments to hotels hosting OFWs woeful

Philippine hospitality, including hotels, are turning out to be one of the biggest casualties of the tourism lockdown the past nine months and counting. Banks have cut their credit lines. Loan default and restructuring aren’t unexpected. Financial and stimulus assistance being sought from government aren’t forthcoming.

To add to their laundry list of woes, a government agency has been making local news headlines for its delayed payments to hotels that are being used as quarantine facilities for returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

To date, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) has chalked up a debt of roughly $5 million owed to members of the Hotel Sales and Marketing Association (HSMA), some incurred as early as July. It is safe to assume that there are non-HSMA quarantine hotels caught in the same situation. That’s tantamount to borrowing from an industry that has wound up in a catatonic state from zero business. The government should never have allowed it to happen in the first place. As of press time, OWWA should have paid off its debt in full to HSMA hotels as promised.

The least the government can do when it cannot lend ailing hotels a financial hand is to avoid adding to the hotels’ burden. OWWA should hasten to pay back the full amount, not by instalments, to hotels. It should also take measures to ensure that, henceforth, hotels are all paid on time as more OFWs continue returning to the Philippines.

Truth is, without the cooperation of quarantine hotels, it would be tough for the government to troubleshoot the accommodation needs of hundreds of thousands of returning OFWs.

Running a hotel during the pandemic is costlier due to the enforcement of stringent health protocols such as frequent disinfection of premises and wearing of masks and PPEs, while having to observe limited occupancy and limited services.

Quarantine hotels, most of which offer affordable negotiated rates, need income on time lest employees’ salaries are affected. Staff working in quarantine hotels should be considered health frontliners as they take high risk in attending to Filipinos returning from all parts of the world as they wait for swab test results.

Surely, there is a better way to treat one’s partners even, or especially, in times of crisis.

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