Tourist sites in Benguet remain closed even when it is already under modified general community quarantine.
For instance, the Mount Pulag National Park remains closed in spite of persistent requests to open it for locals.
In a statement released June 11, the Mount Pulag Management Board, local inter-agency task force on the management of emerging and re-emerging diseases, indigenous cultural communities, and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources agreed the park should not be opened yet for eco-tourism activities in view of reported local transmission of the Covid-19 virus.
“We cannot open it until the authorized body, local government units and other stakeholders will concur,” it said.
In La Trinidad, Municipal Tourism Action Officer Valred Olsim said tourism is still suspended pending the creation of a health protocol plan to be observed at tourist destinations.
“The plan needs to be consulted with other stakeholders,” Olsim said.
In one of the meetings of the municipal IATF, Olsim presented the possibility of opening other tourism sites especially hiking destinations for the residents of the municipality only. However, the municipal IATF said all tourism sites should not be opened yet to prevent unmonitored entry of tourists. The MIATF said frontline workers in the different barangays should focus their attention on Covid-19 prevention, first.
“The MIATF is hesitant because it gives the impression that our tourism sites are open and there might be unmonitored visitors coming in so we’ll have to wait,” Olsim said.
During the provincial IATF meeting, Benguet Gov. Melchor Diclas said tourist destinations particularly trekking sites might open in the province provided the LGUs would require tourists to pre-book their visits for easier monitoring and to let tourists undergo triage prior to entering the province.
Atok Mayor Raymundo Sarac said their tourist sites, mostly privately-owned, remain closed. These sites include the Sakura Nature Park and the Northern Blossoms, where there was a steady flock of tourists even before the community quarantine was imposed last March.
Among all other Benguet towns, only Itogon has opened its site but only its hotspring pools.
Itogon Mayor Victorio Palangdan said they have allowed the opening of privately-operated swimming pool resorts but for residents of the town only.
Diclas said closure of tourist sites and suspension of tourism activities in the province did not totally affect Benguet’s economy because the vegetable industry remains its prime economic driver.
Diclas said the people of Benguet is resilient and can always find a way to survive primarily through tilling the soil. – Ofelia C. Empian