February 26, 2024

The operation of tourist-drawing areas in Atok, Benguet and Buscalan, Tinglayan, Kalinga were temporarily suspended as a precautionary measure against the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Atok Mayor Raymundo Sarac said the municipality receives an influx of local and foreign tourists regularly from various places because of its eco-tourism initiated by the flourishing flower farms and cold temperature.
The decision was made after an emergency meeting, Feb. 6, between the mayor, members of the sangguniang bayan, local officials of Paoay, and personnel of the Municipal Health Office and Atok District Hospital.
Private stakeholders were also invited during the meeting including a representative from Haight’s Place and Sakura Farm, Edward Haight, who responded through text message that they will abide by what was agreed upon during meeting; and Northern Blossom Flower Farm, whose representative was not able to respond to the invitation.    
“The participants of the meeting agreed for the suspension of any tourism activity in the municipality of Atok from Feb. 6 until further notice for the promotion of health and safety,” Sarac said.
The mayor also issued Executive Order 03-2020 urging the residents of Atok to take precautionary measures against the outbreak.
Benguet Gov. Melchor Diclas, meanwhile, said it would be up to the other mayors whether or nor to suspend tourism activities within their jurisdictions.
“It depends on the mayors in the respective municipalities to suspend their activities because they know their areas,” Diclas said. 
Meanwhile, the local government unit of Tinglayan, Kalinga also temporarily suspended all of its tourism activities through the executive order of Mayor Sacrament Gumilab issued Feb. 3.
Gumilab, who led the creation of its own task force in dealing with the nCoV, deputized the Tinglayan Municipal Police Station personnel and barangay officials and tanods to establish checkpoints, especially in barangay Buscalan, to ban tourists from entering the town.
Tourists flock to Buscalan primarily to get tattooed by Whang-od and her proteges.
The nearby Barangay Loccong is also visited for its rice terraces and ethnic houses.
The Department of Health-Cordillera announced four persons are under investigation in the region for nCoV, but clarified there are no confirmed cases yet in the region.
The individuals, who recently traveled to Hong Kong and voluntarily submitted themselves for testing, are quarantined in a health facility. – Ofelia C. Empian