ONCE again, a national government program has hurt the indigenous people of Benguet. It has ignored and taken for granted their honest and sincere gesture of cooperation to national and regional policies.

The pain and insult were revealed by Mrs. Clarita Sal-ongan, the mayor of Tuba, Benguet.

She decried the opening of Baguio City to tourism under the "Ridge and Reef" travel corridor promotion in Region 1 of the Department of Tourism (DOT) without first consulting and coordinating with Benguet towns that surrounds the city. The city can only be reached from the low lands via routes traversing Tuba, namely: Kennon road and Aspiras-Palispis highway; and Sablan via Naguilian road.

There are valid reasons for Mayor Sal-ongan to wail and holler. Firstly, the threat of the dreaded coronavirus disease (Covid-19) contaminating her constituents as motorists traverse Benguet communities; and secondly, the skullduggery manner with which the program was hatched.

To her, it was an unfair and dishonest practice carried out in a secretive way to trick out Benguet leaders and people. She finds this as a knock in the head to the concept of the Benguet, La Trinidad, Itogon, Sablan, Tuba, and Tublay (Blistt) program where cooperation and consultation are enjoined among member local government units.

Blistt represents Baguio City, and La Trinidad, Itogon, Sablan, Tuba, and Tublay in Benguet. It is a program adopted by the Cordillera Regional Development Council some 24 years ago where national regional officers are members including the DOT regional director.

In adopting the "Ridge and Reef" travel corridor that opens Baguio City to tourists from Pangasinan and the Ilocos provinces, she has despondently caused a silent uproar from Benguet leaders that would threaten relations in the area. It is a revelation of the DOT regional office's barefaced ignorance of the Blistt concept.

The DOT regional director should be aware that consultation and coordination are the central core of Blistt cooperation.

Following Cordillera culture in dispute or controversy, women (or fairer sex) take the first move before whipsawed male warriors come into play. The lady Mayor did her cultural duty and championed not only her tribe but to save the concept of Blistt from going up in smoke by calling attention to the malady.

Mayor Magalong, could we say, missed a step for adopting the DOT proposal which airbrushed the inter-government courtesy of Blistt.

On the other hand, the DOT for want to move tourism at this time of a pandemic displayed its passion like that of a flea and the hormones of pubertal teenagers. And by doing so, the people behind it, without the capacity for lateral thought, unleashed the faint odor of miscoordination and incompetence.

DOT has introduced a surrealistic program and has woefully initiated an atmosphere of discord and cacophony. Sad.

Who was he who said: "Whenever one does something bad it should be done properly so as not to be dubbed an idiot?"

Surely, the credibility of the Blistt concept has diminished to a note or two in this skirmish.

At the start of their respective terms, the city and town mayors involved revitalized Blistt cooperation and consultation with hale and hearty enthusiasm.

Perhaps, a sincere apology is made and demonstrated to avoid residual redolence relations and keep and maintain the program along the right path. Nonetheless, the cardinal virtues of prudence, temperance, and justice among Benguet leaders have prevailed over the discourtesy, insult, and hurt feelings.

Tuba and Sablan relented by allowing tourists from Pangasinan, La Union, Ilocos Sur, and Ilocos Norte to traverse roads through their respective jurisdictions. They are not allowed to disembark along their routes though even for the use of comfort rooms.

In the meantime, La Trinidad, the Strawberry Fields of the Philippines, has closed entry to lowland tourists for fear of Covid-19 exposure in the valley.

Ironically, the taciturnity of Benguet people is, most often than not, abused and taken advantage of.

In this instance, here's an appropriate South Korean cliché: "Even if you do not see the road, the road is still there."