Baguio eyes September opening of borders to tourists

The saying that there is a light at the end of the tunnel is depicted by this early morning image of the sky with wonderful cloud formations above Burnham Park-- that after the havoc brought about by Covid-19, civilization will bounce back. And hopefully with lessons learned. ** Photo by Joel Belinan

BAGUIO CITY – This summer resort city hopes to start accepting a limited number of tourists by September amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, an official said on Wednesday.
Aloysius Mapalo, supervising tourism operations officer, said they are looking at a “gradual opening of our borders to tourists.”
He said they are devising a system where tourists will have to register before they can be allowed entry.
“We want to limit the tourists who will come in and we can only do that through advance registration,” he said.
He said when the registration has reached its limit, the city government will ask the registrants to choose another date for their visit to the city.
Baguio in 2019 recorded an estimated tourist arrival of 1.7 million.
Mapalo said April and May or the summer season recorded the most number of tourist arrivals with an average of 100,000 a month. The number excludes the daytime tourists and those who stay at unregistered and un-monitored accommodation establishments.
December recorded the second-highest tourist arrival which offers a different natural cold weather while February placed third when the Baguio Flower Festival is celebrated.
Nearer Baguio
With the last leg of the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX) Rosario exit to open on July 15, the trip to the city will further be shortened, making Baguio more accessible to everybody.
In a Facebook post, DPWH Secretary Mark Villar said the completion and opening of the toll road is expected to drastically reduce travel time from Tarlac to Rosario by an hour from the 3.5 hours in the past..
“With the completion of the last portion of originally designed TPLEX towards Rosario Rotunda (formerly Pugo–Rosario Road/Manila North Road Junction), traveling to the Ilocos Region and Baguio City in the Cordilleras will now be easy,” Villar said.
However, Mapalo said the road opening, in the meantime, will not be beneficial to the city.
“At this time di pa magpapapasok, walang masyado [benefits] kasi controlled pa ang pagpunta dito (We are not yet open to tourists, we are still controlling the entry of people to Baguio),” he said.
Mapalo said while the opening of the road will shorten the travel time, visitors have always found a way to visit the city, even when travel time was at its worst, during peak season.
“Na-feel na natin ang pagdagdag ng turista sa atin (We have felt the increase in tourists here) even without the Rosario exit,” he said.
Baguio continues to impose a “residents and returning workers” policy where they have to go through triage screening while strict border controls are being implemented to prevent the flocking of people that may cause a surge in the number of Covid-19 cases in the city. **By Liza Agoot, PNA

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