Displaced Philippine travel workers get aid from community pantry

Beleaguered Philippine travel agents have developed a travelling community pantry that will donate cash and in-kind assistance exclusively to their displaced rank and file colleagues starting this month.

The Travel Agents Pantry on wheels is patterned after the community pantries that recently started sprouting along Philippine streets bearing the sign “take according to your need, give according to what you can afford”, where the needy line up for food and even for transportation fare donated by kind-hearted individuals.

The Travel Agents Pantry has six areas of distribution across Metro Manila

Golden Eagle Travel and Tours president and CEO, Michelle Reyes Victoria, is part of the group that have informally organised themselves to help low ranking travel agencies employees. She said 40 travel agents have so far offered their own resources such as bus and vans for distribution, monetary and in-kind donations. They are also getting more donations from other sources.

As of today, 78 displaced employees have registered for the travelling community pantry in just two days, Victoria shared, saying that “we are trying to help in our own little way”.

“We have requested agency owners and managers to register a maximum of eight staff. They will register their staff to the distribution location nearest to their respective houses. We have set dates of distribution in different parts of metro Manila and we will give them specific time to pick up the donations so as not to crowd the area,” she added.

While the travelling community pantry serves Metro Manila only, Victoria is hopeful that other travel consultants will replicate it in other parts of the country.

Apart from cash donations, in-kind donations welcomed include assorted food like rice, canned goods, groceries, eggs, noodles; toiletries such as soaps and toothpastes; and Covid-19 protection such as face masks, face shields and alcohol.

Both domestic and international tourism are virtually shuttered in the Philippines since the onset of the pandemic in March last year. Efforts to create domestic travel bubbles and reopen destinations are stymied by the continued rise in Covid-19 infections and the glaring shortage of vaccines.

While a majority of travel agencies are forced to close shop or maintain skeletal workforce, government financial assistance to this sector is estimated to be at best US$200 per employee and a small interest-free loan for each small-scale agency.

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