WHENEVER the City Government agrees to host a tourism promotion event designed by out-of-town agencies, the city mayor is placed in a touchy image standing among his constituents and neighbors in Benguet province.
Mayor Ben Magalong suffered another backlash when a hotel recently opened its premises for a birthday celebration that accommodated a huge crowd, a violation of Covid-19 protection protocols. The celebrant, a known national artist, reportedly was launching a local fabric that would promote tourism and bolster the economy of the city and the region.
Several months ago, the city administration agreed to open her doors to tourists riding in bus loads coming from the Ilocos provinces, including Pangasinan without consulting Benguet towns that encircles the city. That program was initiated by the Department of Tourism opening the three major routes leading to the city through the towns of Tuba and Sablan.
As a result, the cooperation and cohesiveness in local governance among Blistt members was placed in jeopardy. It took some public relation moves for Mayor Magalong and the city to remain a "friend" to counterpart members La Trinidad, Itogon, Sablan, Tuba and Tublay.
A YouTube video blog sensationalizing the birthday celebration at the former Camp John Hay US recreation complex went viral in the internet world. Scenes depicted, among others, the presence of the city mayor, his wife and a crowd without face masks and violating social distancing and other pandemic protocols. Rude and insulting criticisms were hurled at the organizers including mayor Magalong for allowing the scandalous event to continue.
The bashing of Mayor Magalong was pitiful and disgraceful that he sent a resignation letter as Covid "tracing czar" of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID).
It was out rightly rejected by the task force chief, an act considered by many as a cavalier gesture coming from a former colleague in the military. Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque had to enter the scenario with a comment that gave credence to the rejection by declaring the full confidence of President Duterte upon the "tracing czar."
The video has shown solid evidence of protocol violations and people are wondering whether Mayor Magalong will push through with his televised promise to investigate and seek punishment for those involved.
Local citizens wish for the mayor to regain credibility even after his spouse reportedly paid a thousand peso fine for not wearing a facemask during the birthday celebration. They expect impartial results; and the imposition of just penalties, hopefully not kid-gloves punishment. The suspension of operation by that host establishment at John Hay has also been called for to show his sincerity.
Tourism is movement of people to beautiful places and historical sites. Baguio and the Cordilleras are, like it or not, has been for decades promoted as tourism destination areas that need not be promoted by birthday parties at the present health-risk times.
It is in the sober eyes of reason for public managers to adopt measures that keep the economy on the move. Yet there is no wisdom to allow superfluous tourism events to court death by further exposing citizens to the repulsive and gruesome virus.
The health of citizens is more important as death of love ones are sad and painful. Poignant and agonizing are the profound circumstances when the dead are straight away cremated without and lacking of the traditional Pilipino wakes and mourning.
City residents find their mayor as a victim of policy impositions from imperial Manila. In the cataract of fairness, Mayor Magalong's background and his military service molded him as a determined person of perseverance, courage and resilience: such needed traits that perfectly suit him as city hall honcho. His breed of leadership parallel with a civilian touch seems to be the necessary element that would keep the city back to her glorious era.
Quite a number of Benguet farmers and vegetable traders are baffled why restrictive rules prevent them from freely crossing LGU boundaries. They complain that delays in the transport of their perishable vegetable products cost them huge losses.
Perhaps, front-liners manning boundary check points are not familiar with Memorandum Circular No. 2020-62 which reads:
"All cargoes, food and no food, within to and from the entire Luzon, shall not be delayed by reason of the quarantine, per DTI Memorandum No. 6-2020."
February 05, 2021
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