February 3, 2023

Nonnette C. Bennett
“Are we ready for tourism? Why/why not? What do we need so we can open up to tourism?”These were among the questions I posted for some individuals to answer. These questions straddle economics and health issues.
We need to make a living to put food on the table but if we allow the tourism and education-based economy of Baguio City to run, will it be practical to expose our city residents to possible threats of the Covid-19?
Here are some answers from sources on FB regarding the opening of the city to tourists.
“Would people coming up be subjected to quarantine or mandatory tests? And would the visitors be willing?Covid-19 test results from the point of origin should not be accepted. Why? As anything could have happened after that test.Actually, our building is empty right now as students left for the provinces. And we are in a quandary as to when will classes start? If all will be online then all dorms and stores that survive on students will fold up. Bad for Baguio also,no students plus no tourists. I really do not know what lies ahead for all of us.In addition to that we and many others have loans payable to banks for construction of our buildings. We pray a cure is found asap.” — Ram Sharma, businessman
“Not yet, the risk of contracting Covid-19 is still high since there’s no vaccine available.” — Maylene R. Lopez, bank exec-utive
“It all depends on the status of the local government to accept tourists in their own locality.
It has to be the willingness of everyone to follow all protocols as prescribed for, as it is our new norm way of life. There should be more awareness for all since we don’t have a vaccine yet and even if we do have one, we are still not sure if this will really work. Face masks and social distancing should always be followed. For the local city to open to tourists-time allotted in following all the triage and contract tracing may be shortened. Taking too long filling up forms that would take almost half a day depends on the volume. We need tourism for all local government units, for Baguio, and for our economy to grow. We cannot afford to lose more business to close and jobs lost as well.” — Evelyn Grace Rivera, entrepreneur
“Tourists cannot come back yet, it’s almost like we’re back to the situation in the 1990 earthquake. The tourism-oriented businesses should look for alternative means to earn and more for the workers’ need to eat.” –Nap Maranan, businessman
“There should be no compromise to the health protocols. It is not just economics.” — Santiago Bugnosen, engineer
“Maybe… Baguio City residents are obedient and responsible citizens. We follow the required norms dictated on us by the city officials, police and health officers. We wear face masks, follow one-way signs, wash hands, apply alcohol where available etc.Restaurants follow the protocols. Have the hotels complied with what is required of them? Do they have the proper sanitation protocols for tourist arriving or do they follow a standard for cleaning rooms after tourists depart?There were three policemen, local residents,who came back to Baguio with negativetest results in Manila. But turned out to be positive for Covid-19 when they arrived in Baguio. What guarantees do we have that the tourists do not replicate this?The local economy is highly dependent on touristsbut are we willing to risk the health of the locals? I don’t think so.Maybe we should wait longer till there is a vaccine. Students are back. We do not want a second wave of the infection due to the influx of tourists that would affect the students and residents as well.” — Michael Casabar Blancas, marketing consultant
“The money earned from tourism will not be enough for the health risks. Maybe we can limit the places where the tourists can go and local residents not to be allowed in those areas.” — Haidee Jade, mentor
“I think it is a tricky question especially in these times. With many of our businesses here in Baguio, and so many families, who are dependent on tourism it would seem like a no brainer, of course we should open up to tourism to help save jobs and business. But I think the deeper question to ask is at what cost. With Covid-19 cases still rising in Manila, I think it would be irresponsible to simply blanket open up the city to tourists. We have been able to manage the crisis pretty well with a low number of infections locally, I think by doing a full opening of the city to tourists, we may lose any gains we have on the situation. Of course, this will be hard on businesses in terms of logistics and planning, but I think the alternative may lead to bigger problems. Another thing about this situation which may be a blessing is it may actually be a time where we can re-invent the kind of tourism we have here in Baguio. Maybe shifting away from mass tourism to a more sustainable tourism model.” — Kidlat de Guia, artist
“The government should be responsible for the strict and consistent implementation of protocols. The transient houses and hotels must be licensed and monitored. The government workers who will be responsible for the non-implementation of Covid- 19 protocols should be penalized for the safety of the community.”– Guillermo Hernandez, engineer
For now, in America, only Philippine passport holders are allowed to board the Philippine Airlines to the Philippines. Dual citizens must have their Philippine passport, if not, have a certified copy of their oath of allegiance from the Philippine consulate.
Themedical clearance certification for travel authority is a requirement of the Philippine National Police. Some municipal/city health offices require complete blood count (CBC) before the issuance of the medical certificate which is valid for 14 days. This requires a valid ID and barangay clearance, which costs an average P250.
Covid-19 medical protocols may vary from town to town but the underlying need to safeguard the residents from the spread of the virus is the most important.
Are we ready for the tourists and the money that they pump into the local economy? At the rate that we are going with required protocols, travel should be a privilege for those who will bear the costs to undergo the blood tests and other travel authority certifications for a limited time. It should be expensive because the negative effect of tourism will be its impact on the health of the community which has no monetary equivalent.