UNITED BLISTT TOWARDS SUSTAINABLE TOURISM
The ambiance in the country’s Summer Capital now may be observed as one coming from a sustained vigilance brought about by the almost daily logs of Covid-19 cases in Baguio, making residents more mindful of the minimum health standards and learning to live with the virus without getting infected.
The other side of the picture would show those engaged in the accommodation industry trying to build an upbeat mood as they cautiously prepare to welcome visitors mainly from Region 1, after the city initiated the establishment of the Blupisin (Baguio, La Union, Pangasinan, Ilocos Sur, and Ilocos Norte) tourism corridor as part of its gradual reopening of tourism under the new normal.
We cannot however discount the seeming discord this plan has created between Baguio and the adjacent Benguet towns, a conflict which we hope could be bridged and ironed out immediately for the sake of the BLISTT or Baguio, La Trinidad, Itogon, Sablan, Tublay, and Tuba council and what such alliance stands for – mutual development and economic advancement through cooperation, understanding, and unity.
When the information about the displeasure of some Benguet mayors on their supposed non-involvement in the city’s plans to reopen its tourism reached his attention, Mayor Benjamin Magalong promptly clarified it has never been the intention to do so. He explained there was an effort to reach out for consultations with the LISTT town leaders who the city considers as its partners.
Indeed, pitching the idea first with Region 1 provinces instead of the LISTT towns would raise the question why would Baguio go farther when the LISTT are closer to home to work and ally with, in view of tourism as their common interest. It is our impression that the LISTT are worthy of getting the first dibs on the discussion table on the ground that there is an existing BLISTT Council where matters of mutual concern, including one as pressing as the plans for economic recovery, are expected to be tackled immediately by the member LGUs.
With that in mind, we expected having a beefed-up local tourism promotion first, where BLISTT as a group would spur tourism ties within and among themselves, later widening the borders to other Cordillera provinces then expand to other regions.
We now wonder where did the disconnect lay, since there definitely was a failure of communication among the BLISTT members when Benguet officials claim otherwise – that they were not informed or consulted about the plan and felt left out of such an important undertaking.
We refuse to believe the LISTT towns have been aware but chose to be indifferent to the city’s plan. In fact, we would understand and laud their resolve not to accept tourists yet until preparations are made and until they are confident of managing the situation. The Department of Tourism no less has assured it will not force tourist towns or provinces to reopen and respects such decision until health protocols are in place and safe tourism under the new normal can be assured.
While Benguet Gov. Melchor Diclas said the province will definitely prepare once the city opens its borders to tourists from other provinces, majority of the 13 mayors have signified they are not yet prepared accepting tourists and are more concerned on dealing first with their respective Covid-19 situations, with Kabayan doing its best efforts to remain a Covid-free town and the other towns keeping local virus transmission at bay.
More than finding out who is telling the truth, we hope the difficulties caused by ongoing health crisis would not hinder the BLISTT Council leaders in tackling the issue to clear their misunderstandings and mend the communication lines for them to continue an efficient and stronger working relationship.
If coming up with the Blupisin was possible, a meeting among the BLISTT members, for any reason, should have been more feasible and issues such as their recent misunderstanding could have been avoided.
The crafting of recovery plans, such as how to gradually restart economies dependent on tourism during the Covid-19 pandemic, should have been an ideal time for the BLISTT members to work together and put into action its goals of cooperation to serve their mutual interests towards development.
It is not yet too late to mend fences. With the Covid-19 battle being seen still far from over, BLISTT leaders have enough time to showcase what unity means and evolve into a stronger group able to win the battle standing together.