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Mayor James Pooten Jr. has signed Executive Order No. 10-2020 lifting the suspension of ecotourism activities in Sagada on February 21, 2020.
After 10 days of temporary closure of Sagada’s prime tourist sites and activities, Sagada partially opened some sites back to operation.
It can be remembered that on February 13, 2020, Mayor Pooten signed Executive Order No. 07-2020 suspending all eco-tourism activities within the municipality of Sagada due to the threat of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). The temporary suspension of the eco-tourism activities is a preventive measure of the municipality not to draw crowds that might potentially serve as gateway and spread the virus.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the COVID-19 can easily spread due to cold climate and crowd drawing activities.
“The lifting of the suspension was due to the decrease of livelihood income and losses in the tourism industry of Sagada,” said Raymundo Basco, from the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).
According to Maria Teresa Abad, senior tourism officer of Sagada, the number of tourism has decreased from 168 to as low as 78 on February 16, 2020. With this, most of the livelihood of the community had decrease.
May, not her real name, owner of one stall in Sagada public market said that she losses 30 percent of her regular income during the 10-day suspension of tourist activities.
Further, Teresita Ego, owner of Green House Inn, claimed that the lodging facility losses almost 80-90 percent of her regular income since the market of the facility are the domestic and foreign tourists travelling and visiting the area.
The decision of the LGU is in conference with the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG). Moreover, the action of the LGU to open the tourist sites is in accordance to the joint statement of the DOH, DILG, and the Department of Tourism (DOT) that Philippines remains safe to organize and facilitate public gatherings and festivals. However, health protocols advised by the DOH must be followed.
In the lifting of the suspension, various tourist sites were opened which include the Adventure trail, Mount Ampacao, Bomod-ok Falls, and Pongas Falls. Spelunking (caving) activities and sunrise viewing activities are not yet allowed. Accordingly, this is to avoid close contact in crowded place and cold temperature where the virus can easily spread.
With this, however, the DOH mandated that all tours must start at 7 am where the sun is already out. It is noted that high temperature can lessen the risk of the spread of COVID-19.
Although there is a partial lifting, drivers, frontliners, tourist guides, and tourists must abide the health protocols given by the DOH such as the use alcohol and face mask. Aside from that, tourists must also be referred to the COVID Fast Lane for further assessment and examination.
To tighten the security, the DOH also regulates the inn keepers, lodge keepers, drivers, and tourist guide to register their guest with the name of tourist and drivers to the Tourist Information Center for monitoring and data availability.
According to Jeofry Domowey, a tourist guide, “although there is a temporary lifting of the suspension, we need to observe the precautionary measures for the safety of everyone.”
“It is okay that the temporary suspension is only partially lifted, for it also serves to protect the community and people,” agreed Unica Delos Reyes, a tourist.
Sharia Victoria, also a tourist, added that although it is only partially lifted, at least there are still tourist spots where they can relax and enjoy.
Though, livelihood and economic losses are observed in the suspension of the tourism sites and activities, Sagada is hopeful that the industry will regain its business venture while protecting the welfare and health of the community.
By Karen Dumayna