Baguio City, our country’s so-called Summer Capital, is now open for tourists today, 22 September.
Last Friday, 18 September, I was in Baguio City with National Action Plan against COVID-19 deputy chief implementer Secretary Vivencio Dizon and chief tracing czar Mayor Benjamin Magalong to inspect the readiness of business establishments along Session Road for the city’s reopening for tourism.
In our inspection of these establishments, we were shown how the city is implementing its Prevent-Detect-Isolate-Treatment-Reintegration strategy that is paving the way for Baguio to slowly and safely open its economy and its tourism industry.
Starting today, some 200 guests per day coming from Region 1, who have preregistered via an online platform with their confirmed itinerary and accommodation booking, will be allowed to enter Baguio City as tourists.
Before traveling, visitors are advised to explore and arrange their visit with accredited tour and travel agents of the Department of Tourism. Of course, a negative RT-PCR test result issued is required.
Baguio City’s gradual and strategic reopening of its tourism industry can become a model as to how other local government units can safely reopen their provinces, cities and municipalities to guests from other localities.
Baguio is showing us how it can be done, and that with utmost care and strict implementation of protocols and guidelines to safeguard the public’s health against COVID-19, tourism and other sectors of the economy can indeed open up gradually to provide jobs and livelihood to people.
Aside from the preparations for the opening of its tourism industry, Baguio City is also ramping up its aggressive testing capacity with the launch of the new Baguio Centralized Triage and Testing Facility located at the Baguio Convention Center.
We were also told about Baguio City’s off-site aggressive community testing where they randomly pick people from different barangays who will be subjected to RT-PCR testing. This is even more impressive given that Baguio City is already number one in the country in terms of contact tracing, yet, the city does not stop there and continues to find people who may be infected by the virus.
In fact, Baguio City will also be part of the pilot studies on the use of rapid antigen tests for interzonal travel. As one of the pilot test sites for this, all persons who will be coming into the city will undergo antigen testing.
The Inter-Agency Task Force, in its Resolution 72, approved the recommendations of the Department of Health Technical Advisory Group, in coordination with the Department of Tourism and the Department of the Interior and Local Government, with the assistance of the World Health Organization, to begin the pilot studies on the use of rapid antigen tests for border screening and serial testing in high-risk to low-risk interzonal travel.
With the opening of the tourism bubble in Baguio, we are hopeful that this can be the start of the gradual and safe reopening of other tourism areas in the country as well. With this example and the lessons that will be learned from this experience, other regions will be able to follow suit to reinvigorate the tourism industry and provide jobs and livelihood to people even amids this health crisis.