NOTE: This story was first published in The Bohol Chronicle’s Sunday print edition.
The much-awaited funds for recovery of distressed micro, small and medium enterprises are now in the pipeline amidst clamor for government assistance after five months of no business activities.
Cong. Edgar Chatto lauded the joint senate and house bicameral conference committee on the “Bayanihan to Recover as One” bill or Bayanihan 2 for adopting the initiatives of the chamber to support the swift recovery of distressed micro, small, and medium enterprises that absorbed the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Inspite of limited resources, these stimulus measures are what the country urgently needs to gradually open up the economy,” Chatto said.
The ratification of the bicameral report is expected to be deliberated and voted by the House of Representatives tomorrow, Monday.
SALIENT PROVISIONS ON TOURISM
Chatto cited salient provisions of House Bill 6953 or the Bayanihan to Recover as One or Bayanihan 2.
The bill earmarked P1 billion for “tourism infrastructure” through the Department of Public Works and Highways, P3 billion in financial aid for displaced tourism workers, and P6 billion for loans through the Small Business Corp instead of allocating 10B infrastructure under the Tourism Infrastructure Economic Zone Authority (TIEZA).
The DOT is also directed to provide assistance to programs in marketing and product development, promotions; education and training for the new normal alternative livelihood programs; use of information technology in improvement of tourism services, development of a tourist tracking system for emergency response, and establishment of spatial database to improve planning capacity; in partnership with the LGU and DOH and/or private entities, establishment of COVID-19 testing centers in tourist destinations as identified by the DOT, to stimulate tourism and generate employment, among others.
Chatto had been actively communicating with Tourism secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, Senate Contingent Head Senator Sonny Angara, House Contingent Head Cong. LRayVillafuerte and Tourism Sector leader and spokesperson Jojo Clemente on the conflicting Senate and House versions of the proposed bill.
Puyat recognized Chatto’s efforts to listen to tourism stakeholders as had been the case in the policy development during the crafting of the Tourism Act of 2009, which Chatto authored together with then Senate Tourism Committee Chair Richard Gordon.
OTHER INDUSTRIES COVERED
The bill also allocated P24 billion for extension support, direct cash or loan interest rate subsidy or other forms of assistance to qualified agri-fishery enterprises, agriculture cooperatives, farmers, fisherfolk, and other agricultural workers through the Department of Agriculture.
This includes provision of assistance to the agriculture industry, including agriculture cooperatives under the “Plant, Plant, Plant” Program which is comprised of food security strategies such as in rice resiliency, food markets, urban agriculture, and cash for work. Chatto was among those who strongly pushed for more specific allocations to support the agriculture and tourism sectors among others even up to the Bicam level through the Senate and House contingents.
The first district representative had also pushed for the inclusion of assistance to institutions of learning, which the bill provides to assist those affected by the decrease in enrollment due to the community quarantines or to enable these institutions to adequately prepare to implement blended learning.