Tourism corridor linking Baguio, Ilocos region opens on Sept. 22
BAGUIO CITY, Benguet, Philippines — At least seven towns and cities in the Ilocos region will be opened to tourists on Sept. 22 as this city and its neighboring provinces start reviving the local tourism industry in the face of a health crisis.
A North Luzon travel fair will also be launched on Sept. 22 to kick off the “tourism corridor,” or “bubble” scheme, that Baguio and four provinces in the Ilocos have adopted to draw tourists from “low-risk” areas, or localities where cases of new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) are low.
Under the scheme, Pangasinan will open the towns of Manaoag and Bolinao, while La Union will offer Bauang to visitors. Ilocos Sur is preparing Vigan City while Ilocos Norte will allow tourists in Laoag City and the towns of Paoay and Pagudpud.
But the planned tourism corridor was met with mixed reactions from some officials in the so-called BLISTT, or Baguio-La Trinidad-Itogon-Sablan-Tuba-Tublay, an economic cooperation group forged with Baguio.
Benguet Gov. Melchor Diclas welcomed the strategy but said tourists going to Baguio would have to pass through some Benguet areas that remained closed to nonresidents.
Diclas said he was given assurance that only tourists who tested negative for the virus would be allowed to enter Baguio. “If that’s the case, then we will welcome them (tourists) if they want to extend their visit to Benguet because it will also help our farmers earn a little,” he said.
Mayor Clarita Sal-ongan of Tuba town in Benguet said BLISTT members were not consulted during the planning for the tourism corridor.
CoordinationShe said Baguio City needed to coordinate with BLISTT members to prepare their residents and local governments for the resumption of tourism.
But Baguio Mayor Benjamin Magalong said many areas in the Cordillera were not receptive to reviving their tourism industry due to the rising COVID-19 cases, so the corridor was pushed with the Ilocos instead.
He said he hoped to integrate BLISTT into the corridor if the scheme proves to be safe and successful.
Aloysius Mapalo, Baguio tourism officer, said tour packages would be offered to city residents who would like to travel within the corridor.
Strict border controls
To respond to the threat of the coronavirus pandemic, local governments in areas within the corridor will allow a limited number of tourists who must submit to strict border controls.
Before entering the city, tourists coming from the Ilocos provinces will be required to register online via the platform “Visita” to book a hotel and to present health and travel clearances.
Due to the need to monitor their movement, guests will not be allowed to stay with friends or relatives, Mapalo said, but they must take RT-PCR (reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction) tests at their expense and prepare to be isolated in their hotel rooms until the test clears them of infection.
—Reports from Vincent Cabreza and Kimberlie Quitasol
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