By LIZA DIÑO-SEGUERRA
Notes from the Chair
The Sunday Times Magazine
The Manila Times
June 7, 2020
The film and audiovisual (AV) industry in the Philippines, while classified as a non-essential business sector, has been integral in our daily life. It has long been ingrained in the Filipino experience through the consumption of film and audiovisual content, witnessing of live events and performances, and appreciation and preservation of culture and the arts.
The application of AV technologies such as sound, video, lighting, display, and projection systems permeates the sectors of entertainment, business, education, government, the military, healthcare, retail environments, worship, sports, hospitality, restaurants, and museums.
The Philippine Creative Industries, which includes the film and AV industry, is a high-value contributor to the economy with at least 2.8 million workers, mostly freelancers. At present, P1.27 trillion is the estimated worth of the total creative industries.
Despite its cultural and economic contributions, the film and audiovisual industry has not received targeted support amid the Covid-19 crisis. More than 760,000 workers from the live events, film and AV content sectors have been displaced due to the pandemic and the industry’s projected income loss for the year is more than P100 billion.
The projected losses per sector are as follows: film and AV production, P2.4 billion; gross box office, at least P11 billion; Cultural Center of the Philippines, P90 million; animation service, P710 million; performing arts and theater group, P269 million; music events and festivals, P373 million; and social events and weddings, P90 billion. Additionally, the advertising and media content sector was supposed to have a total spending of P97.23 billion.
The columnist and Pangasinan 4th District Representative Christopher de Venecia
These devastating financial blows have spurred the arts, entertainment, and recreation sector to be No.1 hardest-hit business sector caused by Covid-19, according to a survey of the Department of Finance conducted by the National Economic and Development Authority. Second in the list is tourism.
Since there are aid packages for affected tourism stakeholders, the FDCP humbly asks for similar assistance initiatives from the government, being the national film agency responsible for policies and programs to ensure the cultural, economic, and educational development of Philippine cinema.
The FDCP recently submitted an industry-wide position paper to the House of Representatives for the inclusion of the film and audiovisual industry as beneficiaries under the Philippine Economic Stimulus Act (PESA) Bill for the Effects of the Covid-19 Pandemic.
I was also a resource person in the seven-hour Senate Committee Hearing on May 29 which tackled the proposed economic stimulus package for industries affected by Covid-19.
These moves are signals of distress for the film and audiovisual industry which is on uncertain footing and in danger of significant collapse without government aid and support. Although production work can be resumed with limitations and new guidelines, cinemas nationwide are still closed and mass gatherings remain to be prohibited.
In the position paper and Senate Committee Hearing speech, I explained the industry’s current dire situation and justified the need for government support. I expressed support for provisions and cited recommendations that came from consultations and brainstorming sessions among our stakeholders.
The FDCP and the sectors it represents were joined by the Animation Council of the Philippines, Inc., Game Development Association of the Philippines, Creative Economy Council of the Philippines, National Live Events Coalition PH, and the Inter-Guild Alliance (a community-based network of groups representing various ﬁlm, television, and advertising sectors) in presenting transitional, financial, and sectoral interventions.
We hope that our lawmakers will consider our recommendations and allot space for our industry in the PESA Bill and economic stimulus package so that lifelines will be given promptly to our most vulnerable workers and companies, in hopes of preventing the industry from caving in and crumbling.
We commend the proposals on the inclusion of free registration of freelancers with the Social Security System and Bureau of Internal Revenue, provision of guaranteed loans to micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), and regularization of MSMEs for them to become a formal sector.
As we welcome the call to go over trade policies, we hope for a review on regulatory policies such as the levy of amusement tax under the local government code. This will help producers, proprietors, operators of venues, and lessees recover from the loss of income and defray the anticipated increase in production costs.
In an interview with CNN Philippines, the FDCP Chairperson highlighted the needs of the AV industry.
Concerning health and safety, we would like to lobby that film and audiovisual businesses are provided their fair share of testing kits through their respective local government units (LGUs). A “disinfection and sanitation package” is one of the FDCP’s planned refocused programs that aims to grant financial support to film and audiovisual companies in costs related to Covid-19 mitigation like securing personal protective equipment (PPE), sanitary tools and materials, and rapid test kits.
With regards to the proposed wage subsidies, the FDCP suggested that the maximum duration of compensation be capped at six (6) months instead of two (2) months. It also hopes that the Disaster/Emergency Assistance and Relief (DEAR) Program will become a complementary wage subsidy program of the government. The FDCP’s DEAR Program has released over P20 million to more than 3,000 freelance workers who received P5,000 to P8,000 each.
The FDCP hopes to continue collaborations and create new partnerships with government agencies through its proposed sectoral interventions. Through the Department of Trade and Industry, MSMEs could receive technical assistance or grants for consultancy services, training, and education. The film and audiovisual industry could also be included in the proposed P10-billion assistance to MSMEs for up-skilling, reskilling, and retooling.
Subsidy loans may be provided for ICT equipment and software through the support of the Department of Information and Communications Technology while the implementation of laws covering IP rights can be ensured by the Intellectual Property Office of the Philippines.
The live events sector may be included in Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions (MICE) tourism so that it can receive aid from assistance packages of the Department of Tourism. Promotions for tourism can be done by highlighting the Philippines as a location for filming and film services through participation in film location markets and film tourism activities.
Film markets, film labs, and international film festivals may be added to the Assistance to Industry and Service Sectors, and infrastructures supportive of the creative industry can be put up or renovated through the “Enhanced Build, Build, Build” Program.
The FDCP also wishes for the gradual restart of the cinema and live events sectors. Finally, the national film agency prays that the Economic Stimulus Board (ESB) will give ample representation to the film and audiovisual industry, with the FDCP as a willing industry representative.
Just days ago, the industry gained support in the final draft of Bayanihan 2, the extension of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act. A provision mentioned wage subsidy support for the “freelancers, the self-employed” and “creative industry, including but not limited to film and audiovisual workers.”
It’s so surreal to read those words after all the lobbying for the welfare of industry stakeholders. Those words mean the world for us and more so for the 760,000 displaced workers who can finally get wage subsidies.
The FDCP expresses gratitude to our senators for adding such provision. We also thank Senators Sonny Agara, Grace Poe, Bong Revilla, Risa Hontiveros, and Imee Marcos for expressing support for the industry during the hearing. We are grateful to Pangasinan 4th District Representative Christopher “Toff” de Venecia as well for championing the film and audiovisual industry in the House of Representatives.
As Congressman Toff said, we must not stop until the bill is signed. Let’s pray that such provision will not be removed because the critically impacted film and audiovisual industry must be given support. And let’s sustain the clamor for government assistance as the industry pulls through and strives to bounce back while we all heal and recover as one.
Notes from the Chair is part of the Filipino Champions section of The Sunday Times Magazine published by The Manila Times. Click HERE to view the article on The Manila Times website.