Tourists who want to visit destinations in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) still need to wait for respective local government units (LGUs) to open their borders to visitors.
Jovita Ganongan, officer-in-charge of the Department of Tourism (DOT)-CAR on March 16, 2021, said common attractions such as Banaue Rice Terraces in Ifugao, the town of Sagada in Mountain Province, and Mount Pulag in Benguet remain closed to tourists.
Ganongan said the DOT respects the decision of the LGUs to keep their borders closed as part of efforts to prevent further spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
She, however, said that while the destinations are close, the DOT is helping establishments and tourism stakeholders on their accreditation and prepares their staff in handling guests under the new normal.
“We do capacity building activities for the personnel and technical assistance to establishments so that when their LGUs decide to open their borders to tourists, they are already prepared and ready to operate under the new normal,” Ganongan said.
Ganongan said Baguio City, which is the first local government unit in the country to open its borders to tourists, continues to require registration to its online registration portal with the imposition of strict observance of the safety protocols.
Meanwhile, Felix Nayusan of the Benguet Tourism Office also said the flower gardens in Atok which are among the favorite destinations of many tourists before the pandemic are still closed.
While Mount Pulag in Kabayan town is closed, he said the mystical four lakes in the town are open.
Tuba’s different hot spring swimming pools are already open to residents of Baguio-La Trinidad-Itogon-Sablan and Tublay (BLIST) but the indoor attractions and souvenir shops are closed.
Itogon’s peaks, one of which is Mount Ugo, which used to be among favorite hiking destinations are still closed to tourists.
At capital town La Trinidad, where there are several agri-tourism destinations, only residents of Baguio and Benguet are allowed but Mount Kalugong is still exclusive to the residents of the capital town based on an ordinance passed by the village council.
“Governor [Melchor] Diclas respects the wisdom of the municipal government and he wants them to be the one to declare when they want to open their areas to tourists,” Nayusan said.
Bokod Mayor Thomas Wales, in an earlier interview, said hiking at Mount Purgatory remains prohibited for tourists.
“We are still closed to tourists but the locals can go to the destinations,” he said.
Bokod is also known for the Ambuklao Dam and the Ambangeg Ranger Station of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) which is the jump-off point of Mount Pulag hikers.
Wales also said that the Badekbek sulfur spring at Barangay Daclan which is also widely visited by tourists also remains closed due to the pandemic.
Aside from Baguio City, the only local government that has so far opened its border to tourists coming from neighboring provinces of Isabela and Cagayan to see their outdoor destinations in the town of Alfonso Lista in Ifugao.
Three years ago, Alfonso Lista started the promotion of its bird watching attraction at the Mariis River, the drain of the Magat Dam reservoir which is home to hundreds of thousands of migratory birds.
It is also known for its ‘1,000 Steps’ that lead to a peak that has a 360-degree view of the dam, hills and valleys of Isabela and Ifugao.
Various agri-tourism attractions have opened in the town that offers a rejuvenating experience while communing with nature. (Liza Agoot, PNA)