The Tourism Congress of the Philippines (TCP) has warned that micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the country are on the verge of permanently closing down due to the current restrictions caused by the pandemic. 

The country’s largest tourism network forewarns that MSMEs might close for good if the Philippine Government chooses to impose lockdowns in response to the rising cases of new COVID-19 infections in the country, especially in Metro Manila. 

TCP notes that going back to last year’s summer, specifically the enhanced community quarantine period (ECQ), will drive enterprises that rely on tourism to their breaking point. 

In an interview with the Philippine Star, TCP President Jose Clemente III emphasized that returning to an ECQ phase will not bode well for the travel sector, especially the tourism industry’s stakeholders. 

“If another ECQ is declared for the summer, it may prove to be catastrophic for a number of the stakeholders in the industry,” he stressed.

Clemente shares that a lot of businesses suspended operations the past year to adhere to tightened health protocols, which meant a huge dip in revenues. 

Although domestic tourism rose during the same period, Clemente underlined that what was gained wasn’t enough. 

“Most of us basically suspended operations for the past year and had no revenues.  Domestic tourism has helped to a certain extent, but that’s enough,” he revealed.

Clemente says unless the guidelines for the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act’s (Bayanihan 2) financial assistance grant is amended to enable stakeholders and businesses to get the amount they need to survive, everything will go downhill if ECQ is enforced once again. 

“Another ECQ will mean the end for some stakeholders, not unless the guidelines for financial assistance provided by Bayanihan 2 to the industry are modified to enable more stakeholders to avail of it or get the appropriate amount needed to survive,” he remarked.

Bayanihan 2 or Republic Act 11494 was enacted last year to bolster the Philippine economy during the height of the pandemic. It aims to provide monetary assistance to businesses affected by the health crisis. 

The program is being handled by the Small Business Corporation (SB Corp). Out of its P10 billion budget, P6 billion is allocated for loans. These loans will have no interest attached to them, no collateral loans to MSMEs under the tourism industry, and is payable for up to four years. 

In a plea, Clemente asked the government to loosen the guidelines for the grant program so MSMEs will avail of it. 

Currently, quarantine measures have been tightened in Metro Manila and surrounding cities, specifically Bulacan, Rizal, Cavite, Laguna, in response to the increase in COVID-19 infections.

The IATF released a new memorandum extending Metropolitan Manila’s strengthened quarantine measures to the aforementioned areas. These areas are now under general community quarantine (GCQ).

According to the Department of Health, March 21 recorded a total of 7,757 new COVID-19 cases, which sees total active infections in the country increase to 73,072. 

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