By LIZA DIÑO-SEGUERRA
Notes from the Chair
The Sunday Times Magazine
The Manila Times
August 30, 2020
Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the projected loss of the film and audiovisual entertainment industry this year is more than P100 billion with over 760,000 workers in content and live audiovisual industries displaced. We wanted the government to know this critical impact to the industry so that it may provide additional support.
Since March, the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP), its stakeholders, and other creative groups worked on a position paper as recommended and encouraged by Pangasinan 4th District Rep. Christopher “Toff” de Venecia, who is also part of the theater arts sector as a director and producer.
The position paper — a product of weeks of consultations and revisions — presented in facts and figures the dire state of the industry due to the Covid-19 crisis and gave recommendations on the bill’s transitional, financial, and sectoral interventions. It was submitted to various government agencies, Congressmen, and Senators.
As FDCP Chairperson, I was invited as one of the resource persons for the film and audiovisual industry in several House and Senate Committee Hearings on the proposed fiscal stimulus package and it was an honor to present the side of our workers and companies to the National Government to remind them of the important contribution of this industry not just to the economy but to our day-to-day lives before and during Covid-19.
Although it was heartbreaking to talk about their adversities during this time, it became clearer to our legislators how displaced and in need of assistance our sector was.
In early June, as the Agency officially submitted its comments to the Senate version of the Bayanihan 2 Bill and as we perused the final draft, two phrases caught my eye, gave me hope, and made me realize that all the hard work for the film and audiovisual industry is so worth it: “Creative industry, including but not limited to film and audiovisual workers.”
Finally, our lawmakers have heeded the call for help from our displaced workers and affected companies as they stand to receive financial assistance from the economic stimulus package for pandemic-hit industries. Since then, everyone in the industry fervently hoped for such phrases to remain in the bill.
The columnist with Pangasinan 4th District Rep. Christopher “Toff” de Venecia who is also a theater director and producer
More than two months later, the Congress’ bicameral conference committee reconvened to finalize the approval of the Bayanihan 2 Bill, with the upper and lower chambers of Congress agreeing on a P165.5-billion stimulus package. The Senate ratified Bayanihan 2 on August 20 and the House of Representatives did the same on August 24. It is now awaiting final approval and signature from President Rodrigo Duterte.
On our end, to read the phrase “creative industries, including but not limited to film and audiovisual workers” mentioned twice on the assistance provision of the Bill affirms our goal to provide aid to our stakeholders in dire need of lifelines from the government because up to now, most of the work has not resumed.
It was so surreal to see those words as they formalized that the film and audiovisual industry is part of the allotment of P13 billion for the government’s support program for impacted sectors. Under Bayanihan 2, the President is authorized to exercise powers needed in implementing Covid-19 response and recovery interventions such as the Unemployment or Involuntary Separation Assistance worth P5,000 to P8,000 for members of creative industries, including film, audiovisual, and broadcast workers.
To some, these may be just be a few words, but the phrases solidify the government assistance that will reach thousands of workers who have lost employment since March and are still without clue on when things will go back to normal.
For the FDCP, to have “film” highlighted in the bill is a precious victory for the industry. The weeks of relentless lobbying, sending letters to other frontline agencies, and reaching out to Congress finally led to the representation of the film industry in the Bayanihan 2 Bill.
I would like to express my gratitude to the Congress, especially the champions of the film and audiovisual industry such as Rep. de Venecia, AAMBIS-OWA Rep. Sharon Garin, Sen. Sonny Angara, and Sen. Grace Poe, for giving our industry space in the economic stimulus package. The immediate lifelines that the government will provide for our workers and companies will surely help a lot.
I would also like to thank the sectors represented by the FDCP in the writing of the White Paper, the Inter-Guild Alliance (a network of groups representing sectors of the ﬁlm, television, and advertising industries in the Philippines), Creative Economy Council of the Philippines, Animation Council of the Philippines, Inc., Game Development Association of the Philippines, and National Live Events Coalition PH.
The Bayanihan 2 may have been ratified, but the FDCP’s work does not end there.
The national film agency assures that it will continue to look after the film and audiovisual industry by launching more initiatives and programs especially during these challenging times. Rest assured, the FDCP will carry on in serving its stakeholders so that the industry can join the nation in healing and recovering as one.
Notes from the Chair is part of the Arts Awake section of The Sunday Times Magazine published by The Manila Times. Click HERE to view the article on The Manila Times website.