Baguio tourism heads cry foul over Octa Research report

TOURISM stakeholders in Baguio City cried foul over Octa Research’s report that placed the city as one of the high-risk areas for coronavirus transmission.

Octa Research earlier tagged Baguio City as among the “hotspots of serious concerns” for Covid-19 after the city topped in the list of areas with high transmission.

Gladys Vergara, chairperson of the Baguio Tourism Council (BTC), and vice chair Anthony De Leon, who sits as chair of the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Baguio (HRAB), appealed for collaboration amid the continuing pandemic.

“Stakeholders of the local tourism industry, which has been badly hit by the continuing pandemic, express grave concern over the reportage of a privately conducted survey placing Baguio among the nation’s hotspots, in clearly conveyed out-of-context interpretation,” the BTC and HRAB statement said.

OCTA research is an independent and interdisciplinary research group composed primarily of University of the Philippines and University of Santo Tomas faculty members researching on Covid-19 in the Philippines.

“Reporting this has threatened to undermine the effort of tourism stakeholders to revitalize an industry so badly shaken by the coronavirus for eight months now. We have suffered deeply and will suffer more if domestic travelers and tourists are misled into believing that Baguio is unsafe, as reported out in both national and local media,” said the joint statement.

“We are disappointed that issues are readily sensationalized without need to even place things in proper context. This we find worrisome. By their reportage, Baguio has been unfairly shown to be a city now posing a high-risk threat in these pandemic times. This is far from the truth and ignores the fact that the survey was conducted by the private group Octa Research 2 to 3 weeks back in time,” added the statement.

Vergara and De Leon said proper due diligence would have easily contextualized the survey findings in reference to why a surge in cases took place at survey time and what is taking place today.

“It would have been noted that the incidence of positive cases at that time materialized from intensified mass testing and contract tracing, not to mention the fact that two large barangays experienced overnight drinking sprees and frequent in-person gatherings of police trainees. Today, however, there is a significant decline in case incidence, indicating a continuously downward trend, while recoveries are on a continued upward climb,” both tourism heads said.

The statement added the Baguio City Health and Services Office reported that as of November 18, the number of cases decreased by 17.26 percent, while recovery has gone up by 81.34 percent.

“Developments likes this are certainly welcome to note, attributable to Baguio’s expanded mass testing, averaging 700 a day, and intensified contract tracing on a ratio of 1:37, in contrast to pitifully low numbers in other localities and cities nationwide. In any language, in today’s real-time situation, Baguio’s number of positive cases hardly shows a city fearfully gripped in high risk.”

“It should be stressed that increased mass testing was done by the city during the survey period conducted by Octa, such that the intensified activity enabled the health officials to detect more positive infections from the diagnosed cases. As earlier cited, two huge incidents in clusters of barangays took place during that period, thus the sudden upsurge in that period covered by the survey," BTC and HRAB said.

"It hardly inspires that situations such as this are glossed over without regard to contextual reference. It compromises all the efforts undertaken by every tourism-oriented and tourism-related business to get recovery projects going, entice visiting tourists and travelers to re-discover Baguio, and do everything possible to revitalize the city’s economy by shedding small sacrifices in showcasing resiliency and strength,” the statement added.

BTC and HRAB also said that throughout this health crisis, they have stood steadfast in collectively fighting the virus off, doing the best they can in obeying restrictions, and striving to retrieved huge losses in terms of jobs, livelihoods and business engagements.

“We are grateful that the health sector has collaborated with us in crafting policies that have since been enforced to balance off health and economic needs. We have expressed unity of purpose with the City Government’s strategic anti–Covid response measures being enforced by City Mayor Benjie Magalong in a community-driven aspiration to keep everyone out of harm’s way. This pandemic has been a long, arduous challenge for all of us as we struggle to get back on track. We have but one humble appeal for our friends in media: let us help each other move ahead into the New Normal, fortified by a sense of unity unprecedented in any other time,” said BTC and HRAB.


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