News Release

Baguio City to open door to tourism; IATF supports antigen testing for interzonal travel

Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque Jr, together with Secretary Vivencio “Vince” Dizon and Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong today, September 18, inspected the readiness of the city and its many establishments to the reopening of tourism.

“Kasama ko po si Secretary Vince Dizon at si Mayor Magalong ng siyudad na ito ay nag-inspeksyon po kanina sa Session Road para maipakita sa buong Pilipinas ang epektibong pagpapatupad ng Baguio sa kanilang Prevent-Detect-Isolate-Treatment-Reintegration, or PDITR strategy,” said Secretary Roque. The Palace official added that the City of Baguio will become a model on how to open tourism once again.

Mayor Magalong said that starting September, Baguio City will be opened to tourists from Region 1. Magalong said that the opening up of the city for tourism will be a learning experience for them as they will use this to study further how to gradually open the city for more tourism activities.

From being known as a top tourist destination, Baguio City nowadays is identified as having the best contact tracing practices among local government units in the country. Aside from contact tracing, Baguio City is also ramping up testing with their off-site aggressive community testing.

“Random po ang kinukuha nila, mahigit kumulang 800 sa iba’t-ibang mga barangay at binibigyan po sila ng PCR testing,” Sec Roque said. The Palace Spokesperson further underscored, “Kahit number one na po ang Baguio sa tracing ay patuloy pa rin ang lungsod sa agresibong testing para po mahanap natin kung sino sa ating mga kababayan ang meron pong COVID-19.”

Meanwhile, to further ramp up testing, the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF), in its Resolution No. 72, approved the recommendations of the Department of Health Technical Advisory Group, in coordination with the Department of Tourism and the Department of the Interior and Local Government, with the assistance of the World Health Organization, to begin the pilot studies on the use of Rapid Antigen Tests for border screening and serial testing in high-risk to low-risk interzonal travel.

“Dito po sa Baguio, dahil kabahagi po sya ng pilot testing, lahat po ng papasok dito sa Baguio ay sasailalim sa antigen [testing]. Itong antigen [test] po, ang gamit ay ano pa rin po, yung swab, pero nilalagay po sya sa makina at ang resulta ay lalabas po on or about 10 to 20 minutes,” explained Roque.

The President’s spokesman and concurrent IATF spokesperson stressed that once antigen testing is approved by the Department of Health, then it will definitely be another game changer in the country’s COVID-19 response. “Game-changer po talaga because in essence para syang rapid testing kits pero ang kanyang accuracy po ay hindi po malayo sa PCR testing,” said Roque.

The IATF further resolved that the use of antigen test for interzonal travel should also consider cross-border differences in quarantine status and the prevalence of level of transmission, including specialized programs of the Department of Tourism.

Chief Testing Czar Sec. Dizon is also hoping that antigen testing can be used as soon as possible not only in border crossing or interzonal travel and in the opening up of tourism, but also in communities. This is because the speed of testing is critical in the speed and improvement of isolation and treatment, said Dizon, adding that he is hoping for the release of the guidelines on antigen testing in the soonest possible time to maximize the use of the technology.

On another matter, IATF Resolution No. 72 also laid down rules regarding the observance of All Saint’s Day, including the setting of limit to the number of people that will be allowed in public and private cemeteries, including columbarium, to only 30 percent of venue capacity. Also, all private and public cemeteries and columbarium will be closed to visitors from October 29 until November 4, 2020.

Meanwhile, on the matter of the European Parliament’s recent action to push for the revocation of tariffs to Philippine exports to Europe citing the human rights situation in the country, Roque said that reports on the Philippines are merely misinformation. However, the Palace spokesman underscored that if the European Parliament wants to impose this additional burden to Filipinos at this time of the pandemic, it is totally up to them, but the Philippines will not bend to pressure and intimidation. ### OPS-PCOO