The Department of Budget and Management is open to allotting more funds to contain the novel coronavirus (nCoV) and to help people affected by the eruption of Taal Volcano, Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said Friday.
“Secretary [Wendel] Avisado assured me that when the nCoV funds are used up, he will augment them,” Cayetano said, after meeting with the Budget secretary.
At the same time, Cayetano said the House was ready to discuss a supplemental budget but added that the DBM must first declare that the cash is available.
READ: Duterte okays P2.25 billion for workers’ masks, gear
He also urged the executive department agencies as well as the local government units to use their quick response and calamity funds to address urgent needs of the people.
Meanwhile, Laguna Rep. Sol Aragones said the government needs to find ways to mitigate the drastic decrease in tourist arrivals caused by the spread of nCoV from China.
“The Department of Tourism [DOT] initially expected to bring in 9.2 million foreign visitors this year, with a revenue target of P661 billion from inbound tourism,” said Aragones.
“Given all the travel restrictions resulting from the spread of the 2019 nCoV, we may have to revisit these numbers, especially since more than a fifth of the foreign tourists who visited us last year were from China,” Aragones added.
Statistics from the DOT showed that between January and November 2019, 22 percent of the country’s 7.4 million foreign tourists, or 1.63 million, were Chinese.
The President recently ordered a ban on all foreign nationals coming to the Philippines directly from China, Hong Kong, and Macau. Local airlines have likewise suspended flights to these areas.
The government and tourism stakeholders need to find a prudent way to move forward that allows livelihoods to be sustained while protecting lives.
“We have to keep in mind that the tourism industry… employs 5.4 million Filipinos. A broad swath of industries could be affected by the travel restrictions that will be imposed by various governments in response to this outbreak, and we have to be prepared for that,” the lawmaker said.
Aragones said that limitations on foreign travel may require the tourism sector to focus more on promoting domestic tourism to offset possible slowdowns in foreign arrivals.
“The tourism revenue target for 2020, overall, is P4.45 trillion, with domestic tourism receipts expected to reach P3.79 trillion. We may need to work overtime to make up the difference as foreign governments take additional precautions to prevent the spread of 2019 nCov.”
Also on Friday, Senator Joel Villanueva, chairman of the Senate committee on labor, employment and human resources, said workers at Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations who returned from areas where an nCoV outbreak has been recorded must go though a 14-day quarantine and observe the procedures specified by the Department of Health.
The state gaming regulator, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp., which has oversight on POGOs, should fulfill its mandate, the senator said.
He noted that PAGCOR should not just rely on other agencies like the Interior department to conduct surveillance on industries they are supposed to monitor.
“They issue licenses to POGO workers so they can work legitimately, thus it is PAGCOR’s job to ensure workers comply with relevant health regulations,” he said.
If there is any doubt with regard to health protocols, he said they can always seek guidance from the DOH.
“We remind POGO operators that they must operate within the bounds of Philippine laws and statutes,” he said.
The senator also said any regulation enforced as a result of the nCoV outbreak takes into consideration public safety and welfare.
“If they cannot comply with our laws, regulations, and standards, they have no place to do business in the Philippines,” he said. With Macon Ramos-AranetaREAD: DFA suspends visa issuances to ChineseREAD: DOH to big hospitals: You can’t turn away suspected nCoV patientsREAD: US, Japan nationals lead escape from Wuhan; PH readies planes
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