Interlocal cooperation – BLISTT Mayors (clockwise, from left) Magalong, Palangdan, Lauro, Salda, and Munar, and Atty. George Fukai, representing Mayor Clarita Sal-ongan (lower center) exemplify inter-local cooperation in addressing the surge of COVID-19 during their emergency meeting last September 21, 2021.

The Mayors of Baguio City – La Trinidad – Itogon – Sablan – Tuba – Tublay (BLISTT) held an emergency meeting on September 21 to discuss the increase in COVID-19 cases and deaths in the BLISTT area and the entire Cordillera Administrative Region, and to agree on concerted actions to arrest the spread of the virus. The upsurge is being attributed to the Delta variant, which was found to be more contagious, and more likely to affect unvaccinated individuals and those belonging to the older age groups.

Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong shared that from only an average of five to six travelers out of 700 undergoing triage testing positive, the number rose to 12 to 15 for every 300 travelers this month. He added that Baguio City now has an average of 254 cases and eight deaths per day, compared to only 25-32 cases per day in August. Likewise, the municipalities of La Trinidad, Itogon, Sablan, Tuba and Tublay reported high numbers of cases and deaths despite their relatively small populations, and noted that transmission is more rapid with the Delta variant.

The mayors agreed that coordinated efforts to restrict non-essential inter-BLISTT travel and non-BLISTT residents have been effective in controlling the spread of COVID-19 in the past, and that another round of restrictions will help address the current problem. They agreed to issue a joint statement to implement these restrictions. From 23 September to 3 October 2021, non-essential travel to the BLISTT will be suspended, and BLISTT authorized persons outside of residence (APORs) crossing borders will have to present documents, such as their certificate of employment and proof of appointment. Residents who wish to purchase essentials will be required to follow market schedules assigned by their respective local government units. Lastly, minors, senior citizens aged 65 and above, and immunocompromised persons, will be discouraged to travel outside of their homes.

Mayor Magalong also shared on BantAI COVID, a newly launched artificial intelligence (AI) – run monitoring and referral system that sends text messages to COVID-19 positive individuals to gather information on their status. The system will be operated and managed by volunteer doctors and health officers. The mayors of the LISTT expressed their interest in assigning their doctors to participate and implement the BantAI COVID BLISTT – wide.

The BLISTT mayors have been harnessing the benefits of their convergence in battling the pandemic since 2020, as they also continue to harmonize their actions, source out and share resources, and share their good practices. They recognize that COVID-19 knows no borders, and that preventing the spread of the virus requires complementation, coordination and agreement between and among neighbor local government units, all made easier through the BLISTT inter-local cooperation. NEDA-CAR provides assistance to the BLISTT as the technical secretariat to the BLISTT Governing and Development Councils.