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Baguio, Boracay open doors to tourists

Top destinations roll out red carpet amid strict health protocols

PRESIDENT’S RETREAT The Mansion is the official residence of the Philippine President in Baguio City. The compound and the nearby Wright Park, which features a pine tree-lined reflecting pool and horseback riding area, are among the busiest tourist spots in the summer capital. —NEIL CLARK ONGCHANGCO/CONTRIBUTOR

BAGUIO CITY, Benguet, Philippines — Despite posting record-high 68 new cases of the coronavirus on Tuesday, this city is joining Boracay Island in rolling out the red carpet for more tourists today, Thursday, to revive their economies amid strict health protocols.

The surging infections are not stopping Baguio—the country’s summer capital—from welcoming at least 38 guests from the Ilocos region, the first batch to do leisure activities under the “Ridge and Reef” travel program.

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In Boracay, hotels and other business establishments are also ready to accept more guests.

Requests rejected

Twenty-eight other travel requests from people, mostly from Metro Manila, have been rejected in Baguio since the “tourism bubble” is exclusive for its residents and those from provinces in the Ilocos region.

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The first batch of tourists has completed their travel requirements and provided health certificates indicating they tested negative for the virus. They can be allowed to cross city borders on Friday, said Aloysius Mapalo, city tourism officer.

The identities of the tourists would not be released to protect their privacy, but their movements would be monitored by the city government and by their travel agents to make sure they would follow their itineraries, Mapalo said.

While in the city, the guests will be prohibited from mingling with residents and visiting relatives.

Among the tourist destinations being prepared for visitors are Burnham Park, a section of Botanical Garden, Wright Park and Mines View Park.

Ready

BenCab Museum in neighboring Tuba town in Benguet is also accepting guests although the province has yet to join the travel bubble.

Since March, 915 cases have been recorded in Baguio. The latest cases were traced to two villages.

In Boracay, preparations were already in place in anticipation of more tourists, said acting Malay Mayor Frolibar Bautista.Bautista said some tourists had canceled or postponed their trip pending results of their real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests required by the government.

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Major airlines are resuming daily to twice daily flights between Manila and Caticlan to cater to Boracay-bound tourists.

Aside from those from Western Visayas, only tourists from areas under general community quarantine (GCQ) or modified GCQ are allowed to travel to Boracay.

Tourists are required to fill out an online health declaration card, including confirmed hotel reservations. The health card and negative RT-PCR test result will be submitted by email for final validation.

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TAGS: Baguio Tourism, Boracay tourism, coronavirus pandemic, coronavirus Philippines, COVID-19, quarantine rules, travel restrictions
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