BAGUIO CITY (November 20, 2020) – Baguio City is temporarily shutting its doors from its neighbors in Benguet, irking netizens who have started circulating the history of Baguio City on social media how the highland city developed into a progress because of the rich resources of Benguet.

Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong on Thursday issued an executive order restricting La Trinidad, Tuba, Tublay and Sablan towns’ access to the city beginning Saturday until December 4.

Magalong claimed the decision of the shutdown was agreed in the series of dialogues with Benguet Governor Melchor Diclas and also the town executives of the BLISTT areas that the temporary ingress and egress at the borders with Baguio City will be imposed as the member municipalities of the BLISTT ramp up testing operations.

Itogon was not included in the EO after Baguio City earlier imposed movement restrictions with the Benguet town. Baguio City administrator Bonifacio dela Peña argued that such a decision was arrived because that the alleged lack of control systems of the Benguet towns where they won’t test, lack of isolation facilities, not imposing lockdowns, and lack of situational awareness.

He claimed that the towns together with some government agencies during a zoom meeting committed to do measures in preventing the spread of the virus, but the Baguio City government see such commitments cannot be done fulfilled outright, hence the restrictions pending for some improvement.

Only the residents of the La Trinidad, Tuba, Sablan and Tublay who are workers of public and private offices are allowed to enter Baguio starting Saturday. For La Trinidad residents, a valid government-issued IDs, proof of employment or business in Baguio and medical certificates indicating that they are not positive of Covid are required at the control points to Baguio City.

For residents of Tuba, Sablan and Tublay, aside from valid iDs and proof of employment or business in Baguio, they must present medical certificates stating that she or he did not exhibit flu-like symptoms in the last five days.

Those going to Baguio for essential needs must show quarantine passes issued by their respective barangays. Mayor Magalong cited that Baguio City has maintained its practice of continuous expanded Covid-19 testing for various sectors, industries, and contacts, giving rise to valuable data and statistics that help pinpoint at-risk sectors, and assess the effectivity of current measures being done.

At the heels of the temporary shut down however, tension arose especially at social media where posts have invoked the history of Baguio City citing its logo where four gold coins represent the four big mines of Benguet –Philex, Antamok, Balatoc and Lepanto. The Zigzag in the logo is the famous Kennon Road passing through Tuba, Benguet. The Bridal Veil Falls in the logo is also located in Tuba.

“So, what really does Baguio have in the logo? Perhaps only the Pine Trees,” stated one of the netizens. He also stressed that Baguio existed because of Benguet’s riches. He added that without the people in the surroundings and tourists trading in the city, it would have not successfully evolved into a great city.

The netizens expressed their disappointment as they say that the mayor’s action is contradicting to the concept of BLISTT (Baguio, La Trinidad, Itogon, Sablan, Tuba and Tublay) development concept which is “to work as one community”.

Some residents of the Benguet towns including Baguio City claimed over at social media pages that the restrictions are discriminating and selective. Some even questioned why Magalong is restricting the entry of its neighbors while welcoming tourists. La Trinidad Mayor Romeo Salda also belied there were consultation meetings before the restrictions were handed out.

Irked, a netizen blurted out, “what if La Trinidad and Tuba will also close its borders and deny the access to Baguio of people coming from other places?” Baguio City landlocked by Tuba, La Trinidad and Itogon.

Artemio A. Dumlao/ABN