BAGUIO CITY – As new challenges emerge, mayors from Baguio, La Trinidad, Itogon, Sablan Tuba and Tublay (BLISTT) met once more during the second week of the enhanced community quarantine to create BLISTT-wide community quarantine policies to avoid confusion and address emerging issues given the towns’ socio-economic interdependence. BLISTT Chair and Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong emphasized the need for urgent reciprocity and complementing policies as frontline workers and vital resources are shared between towns. As such, Baguio City has started ordering PPEs on behalf of the BLISTT governments to ensure the equipment of a unified BLISTT frontline and the mayors agreed to purchase these in bulk to minimize the cost.
Food security is a top priority also, however, Mayor Magalong shared that international data shows public markets are next to hospitals as places with the highest risk of transmission. Even then, he added that Baguio City can begin to buy farm products from the LISTT farmers and to combat the spread of the disease, rolling stores have been initiated. The municipality of Tuba has launched its rolling stores in selected barangays, Baguio City will launch within the first week of April once supermarkets have properly restocked. The director of the Cordillera office of National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA-CAR) Milagros Rimando urged that other municipalities coordinate with the Department of Trade and Industry for assistance in establishing rolling stores. La Trinidad Mayor Romeo Salda said that his office and the province of Benguet are working to distribute vegetable marketing in the La Trinidad Vegetable Trading Post and the Benguet Agri-Pinoy Trading Center (BAPTC) to ensure the availability of vegetables while preventing the overcrowding in these facilities.
Brig. Gen. Henry Doyaoen of the 503rd Brigade Commander emphasized that movement between boarders and in and out of the house must be minimized. Mayor Magalong encouraged the BLISTT mayors to increase efforts in keeping residents within their homes adding that the target in Baguio City is for only 4% of the population to be outside at the most. Mayor Salda added that his office continues to increase transportation services for residents of La Trinidad who are vital workers in Baguio City. Col. Allen Rae Co of the Baguio City Police Office continues to gather information on BLISTT-wide municipal and barangay permits for proper coordination of checkpoints.
As a primary gateway to the rest of Cordillera, the BLISTT plays a vital role in keeping COVID-19 infections in the Cordillera to a minimum. Specifically, the Tuba was singled out as the area’s first line of defense. A meeting is set within the third week to further unify the BLISTT policy in implementing the quarantine. NEDA-CAR will facilitate planning activities for both the BLISTT quarantine plan and the CAR Resilience and Recovery Plan. NEDA-CAR heads the economic response cluster of the Regional Interagency Task Force against Covid-19 and the Vice-Chair for Rehabilitation and Recovery under the Cordillera Regional Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council.
By Marlo T. Lubguban