BAGUIO CITY – The Mayors of Baguio City, La Trinidad, Itogon, Sablan, Tuba, and Tublay (BLISTT) signed on December 14 a joint advisory for temporary enhanced border regulation between the units of the BLISTT from December 16 until December 22. This was decided during an earlier emergency meeting of the BLISTT governing council on December 7, during which the possible rise in COVID-19 cases during the Christmas season, and the burden on health facilities and personnel in the BLISTT were discussed.

During the December 7 meeting, doctors from the DOH-CAR, the City Health Services Office, and the WHO Philippines presented their data, insights, and recommendations to address the current situation and the anticipated surge. Regional data from the DOH-CAR shows that as of December 5, over 80% of the total confirmed COVID-19 cases and over 80% of COVID-19-related deaths in the Cordillera region are from the BLISTT area. DOH-CAR recommended that addressing the rising number of cases in the BLISTT area particularly in La Trinidad and Baguio City through limiting travel and mobility to only official business and access to essential goods and services is key to curbing the spread of the virus in the rest of the region.

Dr. Socorro Escalante of the WHO Philippines said that in this new phase of the pandemic with policy adjustments made, health and the economy should not be treated as a dichotomy. She said that the economy must be supported with proper health guidelines and policies based on science and data. Further, NEDA-CAR Regional Director Milagros Rimando requested data on the recent lockdown to determine its effectiveness and inform policy decisions moving forward.

Itogon Mayor Victorio Palangdan expressed that while the people of Benguet were initially apprehensive with the previous decision on border restrictions, they have come to realize that it was for the better. Similar restrictions are planned for in anticipation of the holiday break which the BLISTT mayors agreed to. Mayor Palangdan, who is also the president of the Benguet League of Mayors, said that he will gather the Benguet mayors and meet with Governor Melchor Diclas to flesh out the necessary guidelines.

Moreover, tourism planning continues with the pandemic providing a chance to strategize new tourism circuits across the BLISTT and provide new approaches to help the BLISTT economy recover. Mayor Armando Lauro of Tublay offered to host planning workshops in his municipality later this month.