Lawmakers want to increase tourism department's budget by P800 million

MANILA, Philippines – Members of the House committee on appropriations promised to give an additional P800 million to the proposed budget of the Department of Tourism (DOT) for 2020, which currently stands at P3.85 billion.

During the agency’s budget hearing on Wednesday, September 4, Baguio City Representative Mark Go and Cagayan de Oro 2nd District Representative Rufus Rodriguez promised to augment the DOT’s budget in the “proper time.”

It was Go who first asked the DOT officials, led by Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat, how much was their initial budget proposal submitted to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) before the National Expenditure Program (NEP) – the version of the annual budget submitted by the executive branch to Congress – was given to legislators for scrutiny.

DOT Assistant Secretary Leila Rivera said they had proposed a P4.3-billion budget, but the DBM reduced this to P3.8-billion in the NEP. (READ: 2020 budget priorities: Infrastructure, social services, peace and security

Of the P3.8 billion, about P1.4 billion will go to the DOT's market and product development program, which includes the Philippines' branding campaign. (READ: Philippines' 'more fun' slogan in 2019 to focus on sustainable tourism)

“Are you happy with the P3.8 billion budget given to you, considering that this is a small percentage if you look at the budget? Because I will propose to increase it!” said Go.

The DOT officials all cheered before Rivera said the lower budget would “pose difficulties” for them. 

“We will try our best to really utilize to the fullest the budget. But, as we said, additional funds will be very much welcomed,” said Rivera.

A few minutes later, Rodriguez arrived at the conference hall and made a similar manifestation as Go. 

Upon Rodriguez’s questioning, Rivera said the DOT’s budget was slashed by P800 million, a bulk of which was supposed to be allotted for the projects of its regional offices and other administrative concerns.

Rodriguez then said he wants to bring back the P800 million in the DOT budget.

“This is only P800 million, Mr Chairman! Only P800 million…. That’s a very small amount to be given our very deserving department headed by Secretary Berna. So I would like to therefore propose at the proper time not only to approve the budget but to augment the budget,” said Rodriguez.  

Go told Rappler he would make the motion to increase DOT’s budget once the General Approprations Bill is up for deliberations in the plenary, where lawmakers will be given a chance to propose their amendments to the budget.  

Several other members of the appropriations panel also manifested they would support Go and Rodriguez’s proposal to give additional funds to DOT. 

The DOT budget hearing is ongoing as of posting time. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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