Senator Christopher “Bong” Go expressed his support for the proposed 2021 budget of the Department of Tourism and its attached agencies during a budget hearing conducted by Senate Committee on Finance on Monday, October 19.
In his manifestation, the Senator called for best efforts to increase the department’s budget but asked concerned bodies to ensure the proper use of the appropriated funds.
He agreed that the tourism sector is one of the worst-hit sectors by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the imposition of travel restrictions and other health and safety protocols greatly hindered the ability of the DOT to perform its mandate of promoting and developing tourism as a major socio-economic activity to generate income and employment.
He went on to praise the DOT for taking part in various government efforts to combat the pandemic despite the challenges it faced.
The department had notably organized sweeper or commercial recovery flights to help transport locally stranded tourists back to their provinces or countries.
DOT also aided in coordinating planning efforts with embassies, national agencies and local government units as well as arranging land and sea transportation, providing meals and accommodation arrangements for stranded individuals.
“I commend and thank you for these initiatives. Ako po, witness ako doon, nakita ko ang trabaho ng DOT noon, umpisa pa man hanggang ngayon po,” said Go.
He expressed regret that the tourism sector which had made significant contributions to the economy and was expected to continue doing so for many years, was greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Maraming nawalan ng trabaho dahil dito. Many businesses frequented by tourists, like hotels, restaurants, tourist attractions and the like, were forced to shut down. Even in Davao, sa Samal Island, wala na pong pumupunta. Tingnan ho sana natin kung paano natin sila matutulungan,” pleaded Go.
“Let us find ways to provide employment, especially in the provinces for those who want to return. Let us aid our small businesses in restarting their sources of livelihood,” he added.
Go issued a strong call to government not to take the challenges sitting down.
Instead, he pushed for a whole-of-nation approach to work towards reviving the once booming sector and helping it regain its once promising stature to aid in economic recovery.
“This is why I fully support the proposed budgetary requests and requirements of the DOT. The tourism industry has largely contributed and will continue to contribute to regional development kaya huwag nating pabayaan ang industriyang ito,” he asked.
“Paalala ko lang din po na, although we want to promote our tourist spots and develop them for economic gain, we must also ensure their care and continuous protection. Alagaan natin ang ating mga likas na yaman at siguraduhin natin na hindi masisira and ating kalikasan,” he continued.
“Magtulungan po tayong lahat upang mabuhay muli ang nakapaimportanteng sektor ng turismo, gaya ng ginagawa ng ating mahal na Pangulong [Rodrigo] Duterte, let’s work double time.”