Tourism concerns in virtual meet

BAGUIO CITY  – (8 April 2021) – Mayor Benjamin Magalong in a meeting virtual Tuesday afternoon rued the delays in tourism projects supposedly to have been implemented last year.

The delays are due to the global Covid-19 pandemic, the mayor said. 

These include the transformation of the former garbage dumpsite in Irisan into an environment-friendly ecological park with paved roads, terraces with greenery, parking space for promenaders, trees and huts for shade. As a model park, recyclable materials and organic compost which is produced by the city-owned ERS should be used in its rehabilitation.

The Arboretum at the Botanical garden, which houses trees and herbaceous plants also needs additional native, indigenous and endemic species. A known business group expressed desire to partner with the city for the park’s improvement as a whole, Mayor Magalong intimated.   

Formal offers for the rehabilitation of Burnham Park and its manmade lake is being awaited.

For the Dominican Hill Retreat house and nature garden, there are offers from investors but improvements would have to be compliant with the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) mission, vision, goals and objectives. The NCCA is the national coordinating body for the preservation, development and promotion of arts and culture; through libraries, museums, literature, galleries and others.  

The virtual meeting between and among Baguio tour operators and Mayor Magalong came on the heels of having travel restrictions due to rising cases of Covid-19. The return of the use of antigen or RT-PCR testing kits for screening visitors, was also implemented for the safety of both visitors and locals, if ever they are virus-infected but asymptomatic.

Tourism-oriented business owners are feeling the pinch with less visitors and spenders in the city, it was known.

Health Services Office’ City Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (CESU) head Dr. Donna Tubera-Panes who joined the virtual meeting said that the restrictions were put in place to: prevent mortality and prevent the collapse of the health system due to the increase of Covid-19 cases and to slowly bring stability into Baguio economy. She showed data as to the rise of Covid-cases after the no-testing, unrestricted travels and mobility between borders.           

Worse, there are unauthorized and unaccredited tour organizers who privately arrange tours in the city, thus lessening income for locals, Baguio businesspeople lamented.

An Executive Order (EO) regulating unauthorized tour organizers was proposed to be crafted by Executive Assistant to Mayor Magalong, Atty Althea Alberto during the meeting.

A face-to-face meeting was also proposed with businessmen concerned, and the mayor, it was agreed. – Julie G. Fianza