Working Together – Baguio City Mayor and BLISTT Chair Benjamin Magalong (top left) gathers local executives in discussing guidelines for health protocols as the province of Benguet and City of Baguo are under GQC status.

On May 14, Baguio City Mayor and BLISTT (Baguio-La Trinidad- Itogon- Sablan- Tuba- Tublay) Governing Council Chairman Benjamin Magalong called for a meeting with local executives to discuss guidelines and next steps with the new community quarantine classification of the province of Benguet and Baguio City.   Both were put under general community quarantine or GCQ from May 15-31,2021.

Among the key agreements during the meeting were the following: (1) for Baguio City and La Trinidad to retighten border check-points on Sundays; (2) for BLISTT visitors to undergo triage and antigen testing in the City prior to allowing their entry to the LISTT municipalities; (3) for BLISTT to continue mobility restrictions and enforce strict market schedules; (4) for the LISTT mayors to send the heads of their municipal committees on health and municipal health offices to a workshop to be hosted by the City to concretize recommendations of the UP study on compliance to minimum public health standards (MPHS); and (5) for Baguio City to allow access to the LISTT to its cold storage facility for vaccines.

Mayor Magalong expressed his gratitude to the LISTT mayors for retaining some of their MECQ guidelines despite being downgraded into GCQ status. He stressed that the collaborative efforts of the BLISTT mayors in reducing mobility to reduce the risk of transmission of the virus is very effective. “We still need to reduce the number of positive COVID cases before lightening up our border control guidelines,” Magalong added.

Baguio City was subjected to a study by the University of the Philippines on compliance to minimum public health standards. The study shows that adherence to all MPHS appears highly challenging for the majority of the respondents with 72 percent not able to comply. Non-compliance is highest in the attributes of social distancing practices (58.1%), hygienic practices (32.4%), and face covering practices (24.6%). A workshop will be scheduled by the City with LISTT representatives to operationalize the recommendations of the study to common guidelines for implementation in the BLISTT area.

On aggressive community testing, Magalong as chair of the Council, will coordinate directly with the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) in acquiring RT-PCR test kits for distribution to LISTT LGUs to improve detection and mitigate virus transmission within the BLISTT area. Personal protective equipment (PPEs) will also be distributed.

The BLISTT inter-local cooperation is an alliance of the contiguous local government units that was formed to address their common concerns and harmonize development efforts. The body has been on the frontlines in coordinating efforts in mitigating the spread of COVID-19 within BLISTT as well as the rest of Cordillera. Presently, NEDA-CAR acts as the Secretariat for the Governing Council.