MANILA — The Directors' Guild of the Philippines, Inc. (DGPI) appealed to the Senate on Friday to include film workers in a stimulus bill to benefit sectors that are most impacted by the coronavirus crisis.
Representing the DGPI, filmmaker Carlos Siguion-Reyna spoke at a virtual hearing of the Senate Committee on Finance on measures to create a "stimulus package for small and medium enterprises."
In his speech, Siguion-Reyna appealed to senators to count the film and television industries in the small to medium scale business and enterprises category, which would qualify its displaced workers to receive the benefits of the stimulus package, including interest-free loans, wage subsidies, extension of due dates for tax payments, among others.
The showbiz industry, Siguion-Reyna said, "has exerted great efforts and initiatives to survive during pre-COVID days, but is now fully stretched to breaking point."
New safety protocols that include decreased working hours, longer shooting calendars, and scaling back of workforce have only aggravated the situation of the industry, the DGPI said.
"Cinema and TV now greatly need substantial government aid to survive, to contribute to nation-building economically, culturally, and to maintain and remind our own hearts and minds of our Filipino identity," Siguion-Reyna said.
The director the spoke in detail about the important role of the arts, including filmmaking, in depicting a society and thereby exposing its faults and triumphs.
More than ever — amid what Siguion-Reyna described as a threat of "cultural and eventual economic takeover by an expansionist foreign power" — the role of cinema in establishing a national self-identity, the director said, cannot be overstated.
On top of this issue, the DGPI pointed out, is the immediate concern of job security for thousands of workers amid the lockdown and safety measures against the pandemic.
"After the pandemic, if at all it ends, local producers eager to start production will have little choice but ask for pay cuts. Production people will have little choice but to accept. The franchise of the country's largest TV network is still in limbo. No one knows if movie houses will ever fill up again, if sold-out theater outings are now truly history. Jobs will come few and far between," Siguion-Reyna said.
Mentioning fellow directors Lav Diaz, Brillante Mendoza, Joel Lamangan, Erik Matti, Jun Lana, and Treb Monteras, Siguion-Reyna said, "We, all of us, depend so heavily on audio-visual workers, production people and crew, as we reshape our national identity now in the time of the Filipino diaspora."
"A well-planned stimulus package for our production people and the cinema and TV industries is clearly in order," he said.
Addressing the lawmakers, Siguion-Reyna added, "We appeal to you to protect and sustain our stories and the capacities of our storytellers, protect our voice, the Filipino's hearts, minds, and soul…the Filipino identity."