The Department of Tourism is doing everything within its mandate to aid stakeholders in the country’s travel and leisure industry in light of the coronavirus pandemic, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said on Wednesday (April 15).
The tourism chief gave the reassurance after the Philippine Travel Agencies Association aired an appeal for the government to provide aid to local travel firms to help them weather the economic impact of COVID-19.
In a statement, Puyat said some points and suggestions raised by the PTAA have been incorporated in the Tourism Response and Recovery Program.
Those were also in incentives lined up by the DOT and attached agencies to help tourism-related businesses and their work force get back on their feet.
“To cushion the impact, the DOT and its attached agencies, even before the lockdown, laid out the response and recovery plan during the initial stages of the COVID-19 outbreak in the country with the tourism sector taking a direct hit early on,” she said.
She added that the DOT will help not only tour operators, but the entire travel and hospitality sector.
The DOT’s immediate response actions included a moratorium on the collection of accreditation fees from new and renewing applicants from tourism- and tourism-related enterprises for 2020.
The DOT and the Tourism Promotions Board have also waived participation fees in international fairs and exhibitions between now and the end of 2021.
In response to the appeal of the travel industry, the tourism department has also been in touch with the Development Bank of the Philippines and the Land Bank of the Philippines to provide financing support like low interest loans for tourism enterprises that had been badly hurt by the pandemic.
The DBP has identified the tourism industry as qualified for its Rehabilitation Support Program on Severe Events (Response) scheme, which aims to provide financing through low interest loans to businesses hit hard by calamities.
Landbank will also help tourism stakeholders through its Rehabilitation Support to Cushion Unfavorably Affected Enterprises (I-Rescue) lending program.
The DOT is also coordinating with the Social Security System, Pag-Ibig Fund and PhilHealth for the deferment of tourism workers’ contributions.
Philhealth has agreed to extend the deadline to remit members’ savings or contributions until two weeks after the lifting of the enhanced community quarantine period without any penalty.
Pag-Ibig has also agreed to extend the deadline for payment of premium contributions for the first quarter of 2020 to 30 April 2020.
Finally, the SSS agreed to extend the deadline for the remittance of contributions until June 1, 2020.
The tourism department has also asked the Bureau of Internal Revenue to defer the collection of corporate income tax payments from travel industry stakeholders and is awaiting the reply of tax authorities.
Puyat said her department will also raise before Congress the possibility of passing legislation for a fiscal stimulus program for the travel industry which could include rent and utility discounts, higher commissions from airlines, as well as salary and travel tour expo subsidies.
Edited by TSB
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