Department of Tourism (DoT) Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat is moving forward despite being given a proposed 2021 budget that is over P90 million less than this year.
During Thursday’s House Appropritations Committee briefing on the DoT’s proposed budget of P3.5 billion for 2021, Camarines Sur Rep. Gabriel Bordado Jr. expressed concern that the lowered allocation might adversely affect the agency’s performance.
Bordado underscored that the tourism industry contributes 12.7 percent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) while the sector’s share to total employment in the Philippines is 13.5 percent.
“But the department will be receiving a budget 12 percent lower than its 2020 allocation. What will be the impact of this budget cutoff to the overall performance of the DoT in 2021?” the solon asked DoT officials.
“Our P93.6 million lower, that was the budget level given by the DBM (Department of Budget and Management). We hope that it won’t…well, I’d like to think that we would still be able to provide what it needed given the pandemic,” Puyat said.
“But since that was the budget ceiling given to us by the DBM, we will make do with what we have,” she added.
Asked by Bordado if she still expects the DBM to augment their budget for next year, Puyat expressed that she fully understood the difficult fiscal situation as a result of the public health emergency.
“We respect (it) because it is COVID (time) now and other departments also need (more budget),” she said.
“Of course we would like to thank your honor (Bordado) for recognizing the importance of tourism. It is lower by P93.6 million but we will make do, we will make do with what we have,” the DoT chief stressed.
Puyat stressed in the budget deliberation that domestic tourism would be the DoT’s focus for now. This approach is backed by results of a DoT survey which showed that 77 percent of domestic tourists would still want to travel the county despite the absence of a COVID-19 vaccine.
“The most important thing for us is to restart tourism. ‘Yung mga nawalan ng trabaho, kailangan magkaroon ng trabaho (Those who lost jobs must regain jobs). Of course (we will do so) with heath and safety protocols in mind. It’s a slow and sure start. We assure you that we will do it very, very carefully,” she told the House panel.