Baguio opens borders to tourists on Sept 21
As a result of a resiliency and recovery plan drafted to prepare its tourism industry for the new normal, Baguio City is eyeing to launch the reopening of its borders initially to tourists from Region 1 on Sept. 21.
In the meantime, the city government is inviting locals to take the opportunity to rediscover Baguio and be the city’s tourists while preparations for its eventual reopening is being worked out.
In his state of the city address during the 111th Baguio Day rites on Sept. 1, Mayor Benjamin Magalong reported the web-based Baguio Visita (Visitors Information and Tourist Assistance) program will soon set the new direction of tourism for the city, which is to showcase Baguio to visitors in a slow, sure, and in a manner that will not compromise health and safety.
The program spells out the pre-registration process using the Visita application that will be required before any tourist can enter the city, as well as the guidelines for tourist movement, accommodation, and activities within the city. Among others, tourists will have to subject themselves to swab or antigen test and triage before entering the city and to a monitored itinerary while in the city.
City Supervising Tourism Operations Officer Aloysius Mapalo said part of the plan is to work closely with travel and tours agencies and hotels for lodging arrangements as tourists will not be allowed to stay at the house of friend or relative from the city.
He said it would take a while before the city could allow DIY or do-it-yourself travel due to the prevailing threats of the Covid-19 pandemic as part of safety protocols.
Magalong has assured that when the city reopens to tourists, it will be done based on their degree of confidence – gradual and calibrated.
The mayor on Aug. 29 announced the easing up of restrictions on movement, which include the reopening of parks only for residents to allow them to first enjoy the recent developments done on the parks after months of strict quarantine and to explore the city as tourists subject to health protocols.
In opening city borders on Sept. 21, the city government is currently working with the four provinces of Region 1 – Pangasinan, La Union, Ilocos Norte, and Ilocos Sur – in developing a tourism project called Ridge and Reef Tourism Bubble which establishes the Baguio-Region 1 tourism corridor that may set the pace for plans to expand to other regions in Northern Luzon.
Magalong, Mapalo, and Department of Tourism-Cordillera OIC Jovita Ganongan on Sept. 1 met with Region 1 governors and tourism officials, together with Tourism Sec. Bernadette Puyat and Tourism Promotions Board Chief Operations Officer Maria Antonette Allones, jumpstarting discussions on the potentials of allowing the exchange of tourists between Baguio, La Union, Pangasinan, Ilocos Sur, and Ilocos Norte or Blupisin.
The meeting resulted in the signing of a memorandum of understanding among Blupisin officials to conduct research in areas beneficial among Blupisin, particularly the establishment of the tourism corridor featuring the natural, cultural, and creative pride of place of each zone to cultivate interest in would-be travelers.
The MOU also fosters the establishment of green lanes to tourists to promote safe travel and seamless interconnectivity of land voyage in respective territorial jurisdictions, subject to various health and safety protocols set by the Department of Health, Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, local government authorities, and other governing bodies.
The parties will also explore the possibility of implementing a unified border check protocol to promote faster and more convenient journey to inter-Blupisin tourist destinations.
Region 1 signatories are Governors Matthew Joseph Manotoc of Ilocos Norte, Ryan Luis Singson of Ilocos Sur, Francisco Emmanuel Ortega III of La Union, and Amado Espino III of Pangasinan.
Puyat, who along with other officials witnessed the MOU signing, said the DOT and other concerned agencies fully support efforts of LGUs and stakeholders to restart tourism and economy safely, cautiously, and slowly but surely.
“We will not be forcing those who cannot open yet, although we need to restart. We just have to find a way and as Mayor Magalong said, we just have to start right,” Puyat said.
She said with the detailed plan presented by the city, “everybody now is watching Baguio and the ‘Solid North’, how will it restart its tourism” responsibly and sustainably. – Hanna C. Lacsamana