Baguio to reopen for visitors from Ilocos Region with booked tours

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 18) — The summer capital will reopen its doors to tourists from the north subject to health protocols beginning September 22.

Baguio City will receive 200 tourists daily from the Ilocos Region. Visitors need to be booked under a guided tour.

"This will be limited to guided tour, wala pa sa period na pwede ang DIY tourists [do-it-yourself tourists are not yet allowed]," Mayor Benjamin Magalong said on Friday.

​Separately, Tourism Undersecretary Benito Bengzon, Jr. said the agency is looking to open the "ridge to reef" travel bubble covering Baguio City and nearby Pangasinan, La Union, Ilocos Norte, and Ilocos Sur, but only travelers from the region are welcome to limit imported COVID-19 infections.

"Hopefully, we are also looking at the possibility of combining Boracay with some neighboring destinations to form another bubble. We're also looking at other parts of the Visayas," Bengzon told CNN Philippines' The Exchange.

Visitors need to submit a number of documents online such as medical certificate, result of COVID-19 antigen or RT-PCR test, and travel pass. Before they can enter the city, they have to present their QR code to limit exposure to the virus.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said they are hoping Baguio City, led by the national government's contact tracing czar, can serve as "model" to slowly reopen tourism in other areas.

​In the case of Tagaytay City — a relatively closer spot to Metro Manila residents looking for colder weather — Roque said a travel pass is still needed to enter the popular spot in Cavite, except for residents of the province.

Bengzon added that this remains to be the case for those coming from Metro Manila, as the original epicenter of coronavirus infections in the country remains under general community quarantine.

"The key there is for NCR to transition to modified GCQ because based on the current guidelines, it’s only the destinations that are under MGCQ that allow tourism," Bengzon said. "It’s also important for the various tourism establishments to comply with the health and safety guidelines the DOT has formulated."

For struggling tourism establishments, the official said loans for working capital will be provided in the next two weeks to help these businesses get back up after being shut down for the past few months, he added.