Mayor warns tour agencies vs. smuggling tourists into Baguio

BAGUIO CITY – Mayor Benjamin Magalong is warning tour agencies who are smuggling tourists into the city that they will be dealt with accordingly.

In a public advisory on Friday, Magalong said “the City Mayor’s Office had been receiving reports that some tour agencies are already accepting reservations despite quarantine restrictions.”

“We underscore, Baguio City remains closed to tourists and leisure activities while the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) still hovers; and, while quarantine measures are still in effect,” the advisory said.

The city government has repeatedly announced that it is still closed to tourists and might open its borders to visitors only in September, the earliest, or depending on the Covid-19 situation in Metro Manila, where most of the tourists come.

The advisory said: “Anybody caught violating our local government restrictions shall be dealt with accordingly under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act and the Revised Penal Code (RPC) of the Philippines.

It said Section 6 [a] of the “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act punishes and penalizes disobedience of national government policies or directives in regard to quarantine impositions by local government unit officials with imprisonment of two months or a fine of not less than PHP10K but not more than PHP1 million or both, at the discretion of the court.”

Article 151 of the RPC punishes resistance or disobedience to persons in authority or their agents with jail time of up to six months, and fine not exceeding PHP100,000.

Richard Lardizabal, city traffic and transport management office chief, said all buses and utility vehicle (UV) services that transport people in and out of the city like an ordinary passenger is not yet allowed. This includes tourists, especially for a special trip.

He said the technical working group, with the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) and the Land Transportation Office (LTO), has yet to issue the guidelines on how the trips will be done.

“There are already the health and safety protocols in place but the guidelines have yet to be issued as regards the routes,” he said in an interview.

Lardizabal said transport groups in a meeting last Monday were informed that they cannot transport regular passengers without the go-signal from the mayor, who at this time only allows the entry of returning Baguio residents. (PNA)