THE Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) had to find a balance between containing the spread of the COVID-19 virus and sustaining the livelihood of the people of Baguio City.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said this was the basis for the IATF decision to allow the reopening of hotels and resumption of tourism activities in the country’s summer capital despite the threat of transmission of the UK virus variant from nearby towns.
In an interview with radio DzBB yesterday, Roque said the IATF was cognizant that the city’s biggest source of income was from its tourism industry.
“While the threat remains high and the cases are still rising, we tried to find a balance between the health and economic risks. If you close the tourism industry of Baguio, that is the biggest source of livelihood of Baguio residents, the tourism industry,” Roque said.
He said the IATF likewise took into consideration the experience of Metro Manila where hotels were allowed to operate and offer staycation packages which helped generate income for the hotel industry even while the number of COVID-19 cases was on the rise.
The policy-making task force issued Resolution 98 last week which approved the request of Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong to allow the city’s hotels to continue accepting leisure travelers provided that all staff and guests comply with strict health protocols such as the wearing of face masks and shields and undergoing COVID-19 testing, among others, observe contract tracing measures.
Magalong, who is also the government’s contact tracing czar, had asked the IATF to allow its hotels to remain open after the entire Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) reverted to general community quarantine status for the month of February after it recorded a surge in cases and the detection of the more infectious UK coronavirus variant.
Likewise, Roque reminded travelers that inbound foreign tourists are still not allowed in the country.
He said that the only ones exempted from the ban, starting February 16, are foreign nationals with special visas issued as of March 20, 2020 and those that are still valid and existing at the time of entry. He said the travel should be work-related.
The government on February 1 allowed the entry of visa holders such as diplomats accredited by the Philippines, including foreign embassies and foreign government and international organization officials; foreign airline crew, foreign seafarers, treaty traders from the US, Japan and Germany, among others; and those covered by Section 13, series of Commonwealth Act No. 613.
Also granted entry are foreign nationals who are covered by Republic Act 7919 or the Social Integration Act of 1995, those with legal residence for qualified foreigners who entered the country before Jan. 1, 1984; native- born visa holders or foreign children born to foreigners with permanent resident status in the Philippines, temporary resident visa holders, Chinese nationals married to Filipino citizens, foreign spouses of Filipinos, foreign minor children and foreign children with special needs, foreign parents of minor Filipino children and of Filipino children with special needs.
Those carrying investors visas issued by the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport Authority, Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, Authority of the Freeport Area of Bataan, Cagayan Economic Zone Authority and Clark Development Corporation are also allowed entry.