BY ADRIAN P. NEMES III
About 1,700 tourism workers in Negros Occidental and Bacolod City, who were displaced due to the ongoing pandemic, received P8.8 million in cash assistance and cash-for-work program, Department of Tourism Secretary Bernadette Puyat said yesterday.
Puyat, who met with Negros Occidental Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson and Bacolod Mayor Evelio Leonardia yesterday at the Seda Hotel in Bacolod for updates on the tourism situations in the city and province, said each recipient received P5,000.
She said the national government allotted P3 billion in grants to the displaced tourism workers through the Department of Labor and Employment under the Bayanihan Act 2 signed by President Rodrigo Duterte amid the pandemic.
There is also P100 million in grant to tour guides affected by the pandemic, who will each receive P5,000, Puyat said.
As of yesterday, the DOT in Region 6 endorsed the applications of 6,022 tourism workers from 157 establishments in Negros Occidental, and 1,965 workers from 69 establishments in Bacolod, who all belong to community-based tourism organizations and tour guides associations.
Under the Joint Memorandum Circular No. 2020-001, entered into by the DOT-DOLE, displaced tourism workers and those able to go back to work but have flexible hours can avail of the grant.
Puyat said employees in the tourism industry, who want to avail of the grant, should be employed by restaurants, hotels, souvenir shops, and travel and tour entities, among others, that are accredited by the DOT or by local government units.
She also clarified that even those who have already received grants through the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Social Security System can still receive cash assistance from DOT and DOLE.
DOT also tied up with the Department of Trade and Industry to grant working capital loans to small and medium enterprises related to tourism that have been affected by the pandemic, Puyat said, adding that the agencies allotted P6 billion for the program.
Dubbed as “Cares for Tourism Rehabilitation and Vitalization of Enterprises and Livelihood”, the program aims to help tourism SMEs sustain their businesses and keep their workers amid the pandemic. They can avail of the loan with zero interest rate, and payable in four years.
Puyat said the DOT needed to partner with DTI and DOLE for these programs as the agency is only in charge of promotions.
DOT will also finance the establishment of a travel app for Negros Occidental, where local tourists can pre-register before going to the province for leisure.
Puyat said the app was first used in Baguio when the city reopened for tourism in September last year. She said tourists will need to log into the app and if they pass all the qualifications, they will be given a QR code that they can use while touring around.
A DOT survey showed that about 77 percent of people in the country want to travel by land, especially to areas under the Modified General Community Quarantine for leisure, but want to make sure that health protocols are in place in the areas where they would like to go to.
Puyat said that, as early as June last year, the DOT made sure that safety guidelines for accommodations, transport, and others related to tourism were already in place. She said the tourism sector is slowly coping, but she is positive that Western Visayas can bounce back easily from the pandemic.*