Tourism bubble picking up; Baguio stands by entry requirements

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After starting slow, the city’s tourism bubble program has started to pick up even as the City Government stuck with the agreed entry requirements viewed by some as too rigid.

Mayor Benjamin Magalong said the entry protocols for Ridge and Reef tourism corridor program are reasonable considering the thrust to strike a balance between economic revival and ensuring health and safety in view of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis.

The mayor said the program will be pursued despite spikes in COVID-19 cases in the city because the situation remains manageable.

“We should now move on from risk aversion to risk management. We should now be ready to take risks while ensuring that systems are ready to address any eventuality,” the mayor said.

“Baguio City is capable of managing the situation.   Our cases maybe high but we also have high testing capability and contact tracing efficiency ratio.  What is scary is if the contact tracing comprises only 25-30 percent of the daily cases and as it is, we have as much as 80 to 90 percent,” he added.

According to the mayor, the marathon expanded/targeted testing done last Sept. 17-19, 2020 showed low positivity rate.  Of the 2,100 tested from the different sectors exposed to the COVID-19 risk, only 19 were found to be infected for a positivity rate of .9 percent.

City Tourism Operations Officer Aloysius Mapalo said a total of 179 travel requests had been received and 1,701 individual account registrations had been made under the Visitors’ Information and Travel Assistance (VISITA) registration platform and travel guide as of Oct. 8.

Fifty requests came from tourists in Region I; 54 from the National Capital Region; one from Region II; 41 from Region III; 20 from Region IVA; four from Region V; two from Region VII; one from Region XII; five from Cordillera Administrative Region; and one from USA.

Mapalo emphasized that requests from regions other than Region 1 will be accommodated once these regions had been allowed in the bubble as only Region 1 is being allowed as of now.

Three travel requests from Region 1 have so far been approved, two of whom arrived last Oct. 2 and one last Oct. 11.  A total of 47 requests remain pending with travel dates spanning October to December.

“Pending travel requests may be disapproved if requirements are not completed prior to intended date of travel,” Mapalo said.

Most of the Region 1 travel requests came from Pangasinan with 31 followed by La Union, 14; Ilocos Sur and Norte with three apiece.

Mapalo observed that requests from NCR, Region III and Region IV-A have increased.

Under the “Ridge and Reef” travel corridor, only tourists from Region 1 will be allowed to visit the city through the guided tour concept as the first phase of the program. Phase two will include Regions 2 and 3 and phase three, all other regions.

By: Aileen P. Refuerzo
Photo by Armando M. Bolislis

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