STIMULUS PACKAGE. Bohol Governor Arthur Yap (right) emphasizes a point during the Regional Development Council (RDC-7) full council meeting in Cebu City on Friday (Feb. 28, 2020). Yap on Monday said he suggested during the meeting the implementation of a stimulus package that will cushion the impact of the global Covid-19 scare to the tourism industry in Central Visayas. (Photo by Angeline Valencia)

CEBU CITY – Governor Arthur Yap of Bohol province has recommended a national government-initiated stimulus package amid the negative impact of the new coronavirus disease (Covid-19) epidemic to the tourism industry in Central Visayas.

“We have to keep the economy churning,” he said, citing the reeling effect of the feared viral disease that is taking a toll on the local tourism industry.

Yap, who attended the full council meeting of the Regional Development Council (RDC)-7 meeting last Friday in Cebu City, said he got the support of the body which assured him to articulate his points to the national government.

Among the stimulus package, Yap suggested was the suspension of landing fees of airlines in tourism sites all over the country.

He explained that provinces that are dependent on tourism must be allowed to suspend the collection of “landing fees (that) find their way to every ticket that we pay.”

“Every ticket that we pay carries about PHP400 in landing fees. Can we formally ask landing fees, at least in tourism centers all over the country, be suspended?” he asked.

He also suggested the suspension of excise tax on fuel since the country is experiencing an emergency situation anchored on a global Covid-19 scare.

As a way to protect local employment due to the downtrend in visitor counts, Yap said the national government should also download training vouchers. “I think we need to give a lot of training vouchers right now to protect jobs from being laid off,” he added.

He also suggested the grant of food vouchers for vulnerable sectors in Bohol.

Yap said “the entire country is going to be hit differently, because the country has a manufacturing base in some areas, and tourism base in other” places.

Because of this, he said “the stimulus package for the industrial parts of the country should be different from the stimulus package for us here in Central Visayas”.

Yap said Cebu has both tourism and industrial manufacturing companies as economic drivers, but Bohol has no industrial base to depend on, only the tourism sector as well as remittances by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

“Siquijor does not have big industries as well. So, Siquijor also depends only on agriculture like us. It depends on agriculture, OFW remittances, and tourism. That’s what I’m asking and I hope the RDC can articulate that to the national government and ask for a special stimulus package for us,” he said.

Yap also cited the negative impact of the slowdown of China’s growth on the Philippines and other parts of the world because of the Covid-19 situation.

He warned that while the overall impact on the Philippines is just a slowdown in the industrial bases, it will somehow result in a “shutdown” in the economy like what Bohol is experiencing.

The situation in the province is frightening as restaurants and tour operators have been experiencing a 60 to 80 percent decrease in sales, Yap said.

He also asked for more infrastructure funds that can be used in cleaning up sewerage, septage, road extensions, bypass highways, and “anything that is connected to the protection of the environment for strengthening the local economy for tourism when the time comes back.”

He cited Malaysia for having ordered a six-month extension on the payment of all tourism business taxes, and Thailand for pumping in funds to cushion the impact of the global Covid-19 pandemic.

Both countries have also deferred loan payments and enhanced their fiscal policy to offer attractive interest rates. (Angeline Valencia/PNA)