January 29, 2023

The city government will celebrate Baguio’s 111th charter anniversary on Sept. 1 but the institutional activities previously conducted to mark the city’s special day will be toned down due to the pandemic.
There will still be a program but the institutionalized activities such as the search for Ms. Baguio, Baguio Day parade, grand Baguio Day program, and the awarding of the Outstanding Citizens of Baguio have all been cancelled in compliance with the directive of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases disallowing mass gatherings to prevent the spread of the Covid-19.
Bannering the theme “Angat Tayo Baguio,” Supervising Tourism Operations Officer Aloysius Mapalo said the celebration this year will still be memorable, as the 111th charter anniversary signals the city’s transition to the new normal where it is slowly trying to recover from the economic impact of closure of many businesses due to the lockdown.
In a press conference Aug. 20, Mapalo said the city government will still be giving a treat to Baguio residents. Next month, biking and boating at Burnham Park, horseback riding at Wright Park, and operation of the night market will resume.
The arburetum of the Botanical-Centennial Park and Mines View Park will also be opened to Baguio residents only.
Pedestrianization of Session Road will also resume for strolling only.
Mapalo said the number of people allowed in these places will still be controlled through the use of the mall and market passes.
The city government has been organizing consultations with the medical and business sectors regarding the planned reopening of Baguio to tourists by September.
Contrary to the fear that tourists will be allowed to flock in Baguio, Mapalo said the entry of tourists will be strictly monitored.
He said only tourists coming from low-risk areas; those with prior booking in Department of Tourism-accredited establishments; and those with medical clearance, among other requirements will be allowed in Baguio.
Those in the vulnerable sector such as senior citizens, infants, toddlers, those with co-morbidities will not be allowed to visit Baguio yet, he said.
For easier monitoring, he said tourists will not be allowed to stay at a relative’s residence. Also, they will not be allowed in malls or in the market. He said a tour guide who has a mall and market pass will be the one who will buy souvenir items for the tourists.
Citizens and some elected officials have recently criticized the City Tourism Office and those in the tourism industry for announcing that Baguio is all set to reopen its borders.
Mapalo said the intention is not only to help those badly affected by the lockdown recover, but also to test if the systems they have in regulating the entry of tourists, is effective or if it needs to be polished.
“People also have to understand that it will never be the same again,” Mapalo said referring to the traffic congestion and overcrowding during peak season.
“It is not just about money. The affected businessmen have long accepted that it will take time before they can recover. They reopened (when we were declared under modified general quarantine) not just for income, but also to help their employees. A lot of businesses are bleeding and they need help,” Mapalo said.
Last Aug. 14, members of the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Baguio (HRAB) have submitted a position paper that showed Bureau of Internal Revenue data that reflected how lodging businesses lost projected income of more than P28 million per month from April to June this year, compared to the same period in 2019.
The numbers translate to a 75-percent income loss for the period or a total of P84M in three months.
In a meeting with city managers, medical frontliners, and local businessmen, HRAB has manifested the closure of some businesses was felt heavily by employees in lodging businesses, who lost some P80M in projected collective income from April to June.
Wage earners from restaurant businesses meantime suffered projected income of P40.9M for the same period. This, as the establishments employing them collectively failed to realize P107.5M in monthly income or a total P322.7M in three months.
In the transportation business, employees in provincial bus operations suffered some P89M in lost income as their companies failed to realize an aggregate income of more than P1.2B in the three months.
The HRAB said the situation triggered a “domino effect” on other businesses involving allied micro, small, and medium enterprises, which were forced to fold up as the pandemic dragged on.
Data from the Permits and Licensing Office shows 53 businessmen surrendered their permits.
Taxi and jeepney drivers were likewise badly hit their income losses projected at nearly P300M.
The City Environment and Parks Management Office also bared revenue loss for bike concessionaires at P38.6M. Boat concessionaires, on the other hand, peg losses at P3.2M due to the prolonged lockdown.
At Wright Park and Camp John Hay, there are 270 pony boys with mouths to feed. They all failed to realize a collective income of P7.5M. – Rimaliza A. Opiña and Julie G. Fianza