The partial re-opening of Baguio City, credited to its effective and consistent implementation of public health protocols, is expected to serve as a model for other local government units who are also looking forward to do the same.
The impetus to restore the city’s economy, which had lost P1.7 billion since quarantine restrictions took effect six months ago, drove local officials to boost their health and safety protocols.
Baguio City's success in contact tracing even prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to designate Mayor Benjamin Magalong as the country's contact tracing czar.
Key government officials led by presidential spokesperson Harry Roque and National Policy Against COVID-19 Deputy Chief Implementer Vince Dizon, as well as Angkas Co-founder and Chief Transport Advocate George Royeca, were guided by Magalong in inspecting establishments frequented by tourists along Session Road.
Magalong emphasized that Baguio City will continue to remain vigilant: “Ang pinaka-best siguro ngayon is ‘yong tinatawag nating responsible behavior.”
The stringent protocols being implemented include requiring tourists who will soon be allowed to enter the city to have a confirmed accommodation reservation and undergo mobile registration as well as a COVID-19 test.
Baguio City will continue to strictly observe the contact tracing program that it is known for once it opens its doors to all tourists.
To date, only guided tours are being allowed.
Dizon also expressed hopes other LGUs will be able to replicate Baguio City's efforts and successes.
"I think I have seen the new normal now here in Baguio City. I arrived early dito sa Session Road at marami ng mga sasakyan, nagbebenta at namimili na ang mga tao at halos walang pinagkaiba sa dating Session Road maliban lang sa naka-face mask, face shield, at dumidistansya ang mga tao,” he said.
Royeca concurred: “The past six months of battling the coronavirus and being on lockdown have been challenging for all of us as a nation. However, the success story of Baguio, especially in contact tracing, and preventing the further spread of COVID-19 in this prime tourist destination provides hope for other LGUs that are also hoping to open their economies soon.”
Royeca, who has been monitoring the state of transport in the country since the pandemic hit, underscored how transportation is critical to each LGU’s economic resurgence.
“Transportation is the vehicle for the reopening of the economy. It is at the core of everything that we do when we plan an economic rebound. Employees need it to go back to work, and we need it just to buy essentials. Transportation can help us reclaim lost ground from the virus as one by one, like Baguio, the rest of the LGUs open again to the rest of the country, if not the world," Royeca said.