Tourism workers’ turn to receive cash aid
MANILA, Philippines — The government has started the distribution of more than P2.3 billion in cash aid to over 465,000 workers in the tourism sector which had been crippled by the COVID-19 pandemic, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said on Saturday.
“We are hopeful that this financial assistance will provide some relief to our most affected stakeholders and tourism workers during these difficult times,” Puyat said as the nation marked the annual Labor Day.
“While it may help in the short term, we believe that the best way to help stakeholders in the long run is to develop a tourism industry that is stronger, more resilient and more adaptable to change,” she said in a statement.
Of the funds allotted for the joint cash assistance program of the Department of Tourism (DOT) and the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole), she said P1.6 billion had been released to payment centers for 325,678 worker beneficiaries as of April 28.
The tourism secretary said the remaining amount would be disbursed to 139,852 more workers whose applications for cash assistance had been approved.
Among the recipients were 450,202 workers in 15,982 tourism-related establishments, organizations and associations while the rest sought the cash aid as individual applicants.
Most of the beneficiaries were from the Calabarzon region (61,392) and Mimaropa provinces (56,955).
The financial aid program also benefited 39,429 tourism workers in Metro Manila.
According to Puyat, each beneficiary from the tourism industry, one of the sectors hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, will get P5,000 as a one-time financial assistance.
She said Congress had earmarked a total of P3.1 billion for the program under Republic Act No. 11529, or the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, which President Duterte had extended to June.
“[The amount] will be sent [to the beneficiaries] through banks and other electronic payment providers,” Puyat told the Inquirer.
Under the program, workers in hotels, resorts, tour companies, sports facilities, zoos, museums, restaurants, entertainment centers, training centers and other DOT-accredited enterprises are eligible to receive financial aid.
Puyat said employees of community-based tourism organizations and other similar groups accredited by local government units were also entitled to apply for the cash assistance.
Employees who lost their jobs or whose work hours were reduced due to the pandemic are covered by the program.
Also marking Labor Day on Saturday, the Dole started inoculating 5,000 workers belonging to the A4 category, or the fourth priority front-line group to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in the national vaccination program.
They will include 3,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and 2,000 from those involved in essential services, such as transportation, wet and dry markets, food service, news media, education and certain government agencies.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III urged workers to get themselves vaccinated for free as soon as they were eligible.
“Please do not avoid the vaccine. It is the best way to fight COVID-19. Do not waste this opportunity,” Bello said in Filipino during a labor day event.
In a speech, the labor secretary said the Dole had prepared a masterlist of individuals to be vaccinated to ensure that all labor sectors under A4 were equally represented.
The Department of Health did not immediately respond to queries on whether all 5,000 individuals were vaccinated on Saturday.
The vaccinations, which were also simultaneously held in Quezon City and Taguig, marks the first day of inoculation for those in the A4 priority group.
Prior to Saturday, only health-care workers (A1), senior citizens (A2) and persons with comorbidities (A3) were vaccinated.
The Dole on Saturday said over 50,000 jobs from more than 600 different employers were available in the labor department’s online job fair.
During the opening ceremony of the online job fair called “Trabaho, Negosyo, Kabuhayan,” Bello urged the public to take advantage of the job openings.
According to labor department data, there were 53,788 jobs in different employers were available in the online job fair of the labor department.
The top five employers participating in the online job fair are the government and the manufacturing, textile, construction and business process outsourcing industries.
—WITH A REPORT FROM PATRICIA DENISE M. CHIU
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