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Baguio to Celebrate 111th Anniversary with the Opening of Tourist Spots

The 111th anniversary of Baguio Day will be celebrated in conjunction with the opening of tourist spots.

Keynote Address of Department of Tourism Secretary Hon. Bernadette Romulo-Puyat

The major parks in the City of Pines are set to open to the public in conjunction with the virtual celebration of Baguio City's 111th charter anniversary.

The three-day dry-run will also begin today with a variety of activities that will open the parks specifically boating in Burnham Lake, cycling in Burnham Park and horse riding in Wright Park.

The dry-run will be held before the formal opening of city parks on Friday, September 4.

Meanwhile, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, who arrived in the city yesterday, will be the main guest of the Baguio Charter Day celebration.

The program will be limited to the Baguio Convention Center and health protocols will be followed to prevent the further spread of coronavirus.

The program can be watched live streaming, where tribute will also be given to the frontliners who are now considered modern day heroes for their courage and sacrifice in the campaign against coronavirus.

The annual September 1 is a special non-working holiday in Baguio City as a celebration of its Charter Day under Republic Act 6710.

This year's theme is "Angat Tayo Baguio."

Baguio Burnham Park

UPDATE: Keynote Address of Department of Tourism Secretary Hon. Bernadette Romulo-Puyat

111th Baguio Day celebration, Sept. 1, 2020 via Baguio - PIO

A very good morning to you all ! Naimbag nga bigat!

I am honored to be here in Baguio, addressing you in person today. My gratitude to Mayor Benjamin Magalong for inviting me to grace Baguio City’s 111th Charter Anniversary. My warmest greetings to DOT-CAR OIC Jovita Ganongan, Congressman Mark Go, and Vice Mayor Faustino Olowan, City Officials and Agency directors.

On behalf of the Department of Tourism, I extend our sincerest appreciation to the frontliners who have been honored earlier. Thank you for the work that you continue to do to keep Baguio safe. Your efforts have been so integral to getting Baguio to where it is today in our current public health situation.

This may not feel like a time for celebration. We are still under a community quarantine, and whether or not an area has managed to successfully contain the virus, the economic fallout has hit everyone and everywhere very hard, the tourism industry more so. The Summer Capital of the Philippines, as we know, is heavily dependent on tourism, and without any visitors to go boating across Burnham Lake or go riding at Wright Park, business owners and their employees will continue to struggle.

Today, however let us recognize how Baguio City has admirably risen to the challenges and effectively responded to the crisis, turning it into a model city for containment and one of several tourist destinations that is preparing to enter into tourism corridor arrangements with partner LGUs with similarly low or zero-risk areas.

Baguio City was one of the first to respond to the COVID-19 crisis when, as early as January 2020, Mayor Benjie Magalong suspended the 2020 edition of the Panagbenga, a major crowd-drawing event. Swift action and strict compliance with lockdown measures averted what could have been a dire situation. With the rest of the Cordillera Administrative Region, Baguio City is now under MGCQ.

The low number of cases can also be attributed to the thorough process of testing, tracing, and isolating that continues to be implemented. To date, 35,342 RT-PCR tests have been administered with negative results. This means that roughly 1 out of 10 people are being tested. Baguio has the highest testing per total population for any LGU in the country. And just as notably, Baguio has the highest ratio of contacts being traced for every COVID case, with up to 37 persons traced per patient. This 1:37 ratio target is what also needs to be met in urban areas and hotspots around the country.

The World Health Organization has commended Baguio for its contact tracing strategy,stating that the city is far ahead in their contact tracing because local officials are working together with health officials, and that it should be replicated in other LGUs across the Philippines. Now that Mayor Magalong has been appointed the nation’s contact tracing czar, this is something we can look forward to.

Effective contact tracing requires the right questions to be asked in order to prod a person’s memory. Over 600 warm bodies from the City Health Services Office and the Baguio City Police Office compose Baguio City’s contact tracing team, all trained on the Cognitive Interview technique. This method of interviewing yields more complete results than merely asking someone to list down the names of the people they remember being in contact with over the span of 2 weeks. By helping patients remember more, cognitive interviews become an important tool in the arsenal used to combat the virus.

Baguio City has also implemented strict healthy and safety protocols, such as using cashless payment methods at the Public Market and other establishments, regular disinfection of public spaces, issuing an ordinance imposing physical distancing, mandating all employees to wear face shields while on duty, even the use of robots in medicine delivery.

On the part of the DOT, we have conducted thorough inspections of tourism establishments before issuing a Certificate of Authority to Operate.

We have also rolled out SafePass and Eat-In Express, digital solutions designed for hotels and restaurants to transition to contactless transactions and enable capacity management. DOT has also conducted online learning courses designed to prepare tourism establishments in the city for eventual re-opening, particularly focusing on proper housekeeping including cleaning, disinfection and hygiene. The number of establishment owners joining these webinars only shows that most establishments are eager to return to business while prioritizing customer health and safety.

Given these protocols in place, Baguio can anticipate reopening cautiously first to its CAR neighbors and visitors from Region 1.

Tourists will be regulated and monitored through the Baguio V.I.S.I.T.A. (Visitor Information and Travel Assistance). Anyone who wishes to enter Baguio must pre-register and pre-book accommodations.

Upon entry, tourists will undergo mandatory triage and PCR testing on their own expense. The movement of the tourist shall be closely monitored by the tour operator or hotel management, and the city will limit the capacity of visitors to 200 or up to 1000 a day, depending on risk levels.

The Tourism Promotions Board or TPB, an attached corporation of the DOT and represented here with me by COO Anthonette Velasco-Allones, has committed to find programs that will spur the recovery of the tourism industry here in Baguio.

The TPB has collaborated with your LGU and the Baguio City Tourism Council in the implementation of five major projects, which are:

  1. the aforementioned multi-platform digital monitoring application Baguio V.I.S.I.T.A.
  2. sponsorship of a photo contest,
  3. establishment of Baguio Re-Branding Marketing & Promotional Projects,
  4. Setting up the website and e-commerce platform; and
  5. reviving Baguio’s weaving and fashion industry.

In addition, the DOT has put together a task force to focus on domestic tourism, headed by Intramuros Administrator Guiller Asido, that involves the identification of key indicators when a destination is ready, including the willingness and full support of local leaders and communities, and the capacity to handle health emergencies.

The Task Force is now conceptualizing and developing new products and other tourism-related products and programs that will enhance tourism sites and facilities for the domestic market, all in alignment with the objectives of the Tourism Response and Recovery Program.

Moreover, with sustainable tourism as our core advocacy, we have and will continue to ensure that policies are in place for the protection of the environment and the local community.

Prior to the pandemic, Baguio was suffering from the effects of over-tourism, with unabated urban development leading to big-city problems like traffic, pollution, overcrowding, and water shortages. The entire executive committee of DOT came up here last January to hold stakeholder consultations on sustainability, recognizing Baguio as an integral part of sustainable tourism efforts in the country. DOT-CAR was implementing programs, projects, and activities consistent with the thrust of sustainable and responsible tourism, but the rehabilitation program was halted by COVID-19.

As Baguio readies to open its doors, we are being given the opportunity now to refocus on sustainable and responsible tourism, taking into account the quality rather than the number of tourists entering this iconic and beloved destination. Let us not forget about the other threats we face, such as climate change and the depletion of natural resources.

Following a sustainable carrying capacity will help ensure those future generations of residents and visitors will get to enjoy a high quality of life in Baguio.

I believe Baguio can do this. Baguio will be one of the first to rise again. Under its capable and decisive leadership and collaborative and responsive public and private sector, there is strong confidence that Baguio will be able to strike a balance between the public’s health and safety with that of economic survival of the tourism industry.

Baguio is more than just a place where visitors escape to for its cool weather. It’s an important cultural and creative center whose rich religious, ethnic, and artistic heritage brings deep pride to the northerners who call this area home. It is your city’s strong sense of shared identity that has always pulled Baguio through previous disasters. We shall continue to work together with the Baguio city government and tourism stakeholders to sustainably and safely rebuild the industry and bring back jobs, livelihoods, and security to the City of Pines. Angat Tayo Baguio!

Thank you and Mabuhay!

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