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A lawmaker on Monday called for a whole-of-government, whole-of-nation, and whole-of-society approach to revive tourism and bolster its full recovery from the impacts of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

In a resolution released on Monday, Quezon City Rep. Alfred Vargas urged the government to work together with various stakeholders in implementing measures aimed at catalyzing the recovery of the country’s tourism sector and helping affected Filipinos regain their livelihood.

“It is the natural beauty of our country—our beaches and mountains and other natural wonders—and our innate hospitality as Filipinos that has made the Philippines a top tourist destination. In our next steps towards the New Normal, we can build back stronger only through mutual aid and assistance. We have to rebuild this key pillar of our economy together,” Vargas said.

He said an “integrated tourism recovery roadmap” is also indispensable, considering the value of the tourism sector to millions of Filipinos, noting that the tourism industry generated 5.71 million jobs and contributed 12.7 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2019.

Vargas suggested that policy and program solutions should be quickly explored, including financial and wage subsidies for micro-, small-, and medium-sized tourism enterprises, increased investments and capital support, and comprehensive technical and fiscal assistance to local government units for tourism promotion.

Vargas acknowledged that government efforts to address the pandemic through vaccination and the cooperation of the public have yielded positive results.

The government has eased restrictions on mobility and public gatherings, allowed more businesses to open, and promoted overseas and local travel.

“There has been a generally steady improvement in the state of our tourism sector, with the DOT (Department of Tourism) expressing optimism for a strong recovery for this important pillar of our economy, especially this 2022,” Vargas said.

Meanwhile, House Ways and Means Chair Joey Salceda urged the government to direct the full resumption of all restricted tourism activities and the promotion of more foreign direct investments (FDI).

Salceda made the suggestion in response to the February jobs report which indicates that the number of jobless Filipinos reached 3.13 million from 2.93 million in January.

He said inflation remains a threat to jobs in FDI-driven industries such as the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector and electronics.

“We really have to open up, because the fundamentals will tend to be a little less rosy due to inflation,” Salceda said. “That means growth will come not because prospects are better, but because we opened up prior existing legal impediments, such as restrictions on tourism due to Covid-19, or because of our FDI rules.”

Salceda warned that with elevated inflation, firms will be less certain that investment will be profitable, thus dampening the incentives to invest.

“Of course, we have not maximized our investment horizons due to FDI restrictions and due to Covid-19 rules. So, let’s open up, so we can create jobs,” Salceda said.

He noted that there should be a “rollback of tourism restriction”, considering that tourism accounts for anywhere between 12 to 14 percent of GDP.

He said the issuance of the Strategic Investment Priorities Plan, set to be released by May 2022, as well as the issuance of the implementing rules and regulations of the amendments to the Public Service Act, Retail Trade Liberalization Act, and the Foreign Investment Act, would “unleash previously untapped, restricted, or hesitant foreign investment.”

“That will create jobs, too,” he added. (PNA)