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P 14B for tourism? Gov’t priorities questioned

By: - Correspondent / @melvingasconINQ
/ 04:52 AM March 18, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — At a time when the country is reeling from a health crisis, the government is being questioned why was it allotting P14 billion for tourism instead of providing funds for livelihood and assistance to workers affected by the “enhanced community quarantine?”

This was the question posed by lawmakers on Tuesday as they called on agencies to prioritize measures that will soften the impact of the lockdown, particularly on the poorest sectors of society.

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Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said the government should match its imposition of the enhanced quarantine with “enhanced” measures to help Filipinos cope with the health crisis.

Zarate expressed disgust over the P2 billion that the government, through the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole), had set aside for supposed “social protection program.”

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This funding, he said, was “obviously not enough” to compensate workers who will be displaced by the lockdown.

“It is quite repulsive that workers under the Dole amelioration program get a measly P2 billion, while more than half of the P27 billion government economic package to combat COVID-19, or P14 billion to be exact, will just go to tourism projects and programs,” he said.

He was referring to the P27.1-billion package the government has allotted to curb the spread of COVID-19, and as economic assistance to affected businesses and workers.

On Monday evening, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said P2 billion had been set aside as an “initial budget” for the Dole to aid affected workers, in the form of wage subsidy.

The Department of Tourism, on the other hand, has been allotted P14 billion to support the tourism industry, which is expected to get a heavy beating from the pandemic, the official said.

But according to Zarate, the P2-billion funding for “social protection program” will only give the estimated 5.3 million workers in the National Capital Region a “measly” P377.35 each.

“Clearly this is not enough for anyone to survive for a month, let alone if they have families,” he said.

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“There (is) enough funding to give them P10,000 each in the 2020 national budget, like the P13-billion contingency fund, P16-billion NDRRM (National Disaster Risk Reduction Management) fund and at least P56 billion cumulated NDRRM funds up to 2019,” he said.

The billions of intelligence and confidential funds can also be used to alleviate the plight of Filipino workers, he said.

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TAGS: Carlos Isagani Zarate, COVID-19, DOLE, DoT, Luzon quarantine, social protection program, tourism industry
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