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May pera sa infra! Cayetano converts P10-B tourism recovery fund in Bayanihan 2 as ‘pabaon’ for allies

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Lawmakers are allegedly finding creative ways to get their hands on pork barrel funds even as the government is tightening its belt due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tourism stakeholders recently raised a howl over the House of Representatives’ amendment to the proposed Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, which placed the P10-billion funding for the tourism sector under the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA).

It was a complete turnaround from the Senate’s proposal to lodge the P10 billion with the Department of Tourism so it can finance programs for the recovery of tourism businesses critically hit by the pandemic.

Politiko learned that House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano allegedly sought the transfer of the tourism funding to TIEZA as supposed “pabaon” or parting gift to his allies.

Cayetano is expected to step down as Speaker in October this year under the term sharing agreement he has with Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Jay Velasco.

Infrastructure projects have long been known to be a source of pork barrel funds, with enterprising politikos getting a cut from winning contractors.

With tourist arrivals at an all-time low, Philippine Star columnist Boo Chanco said there’s no need for new tourism infrastructure amid the pandemic. He said pork barrel funds are “obviously” behind the House’s move to give P10 billion to TIEZA instead of DOT.

“The tourism industry asked for loans to be administered by GFIs to help them keep their businesses going. Obviously, the congressmen are eyeing potential pork funds embedded in TIEZA infrastructure projects,” Chanco said in his August 12 column.

It remains to be seen if Cayetano’s allies will prevail in keeping the P10 billion in TIEZA as the bicameral conference committee continues meeting to iron out conflicting provisions in the House and Senate versions of the Bayanihan 2 bill.

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