BAGUIO CITY, May 29(PIA) -- At least 26 local tourists stranded in Baguio City since the start of the Enhanced Community Quarantine in March were sent home to their respective hometowns today.
The Department of Tourism - Cordillera with the member-agencies of the Regional Task Force on COVID-19 in the region organized a sweeper bus operation to bring home the locally stranded individuals.
DOT-CAR Officer-in-Charge Jovita Ganongan said that the DOT organized the "Hatid Turista Program" in cooperation with the regional offices of the Department of Transportation thru the Land Transportation Office, Department of Interior and Local Government, Police Regional Office - Cordillera and the City Government of Baguio.
The 26 local tourists will be brought to Pangasinan in Region 1, Pampanga in Region 3, Batangas and Cavite in Region 4A and other cities at the National Capital Region, Ganongan said.
"We are now sending home the stranded tourists who were also assisted by the DOT-CAR and the other government agencies in the past two months during their stay in the city
The LTO-CAR coordinated with the LTO and DOTR offices in Region 1, 3, 4A and NCR particularly the specific areas where the bus will bring the tourists. DILG-CAR also coordinated with the different local government units where the tourists are while the PRO-Cor provided special travel pass for the passengers as well as the bus will come back to Baguio City.
The bus was provided for free by the Victory Liner Bus thru the DOT and the City Government of Baguio.
All passengers were subjected to COVID-19 health screening and applied for health certificates before they were sent home.
Ramonita Reuyan, 64, and a person with disability, expressed happiness and gratitude for the provision of a sweeper that will bring them home in Cavite City.
"Maraming pong salamat sa tulong na ito. Nag aalala na po kami kung paano kami makakauwi, buti na lang po at mayroon kayo na taga Baguio at sa gobyerno," she said.
She related her family came to Baguio on March 14 for the wake of a relative. Unfortunately they were locked down in Loakan Barangay following the declaration by President Rodrigo Duterte of the Enhanced Community Quarantine in Luzon on March 16 due to the COVID-19 threat.
Twenty one year old Julius Villaco of Aklan in the Visayas, one of the stranded tourists in the city, also expressed his gratitude to the people of Baguio City who took care of them during the lockdown period.
Villaco with his two friends came up to Baguio City on March 12 for a week-long vacation but they were stranded in the city particularly at the Country Club Village Barangay since the ECQ.
They are thankful to Imee Ibanag, the owner of the transient house where they stayed in the past two months. With limited budget, they were fortunate to have been included as beneficiaries of relief goods from the barangay and the city government despite them not being residents of the city.
"The people of Baguio are very kind. We are very thankful that the people of Baguio took us in during the lockdown. We do not want yet to go home but we promise to come back when the situation of the COVID-19 will improve in the country," Villaco said.
Aside from the free ride, the DOT-CAR also provided each passenger with a tourist care kit which includes a sanitizer, facemask, water and snacks while the city government of Baguio thru the City Tourism Office provided meals for the duration of the trip.
A send-off program was held prior to the departure of the bus led by Ganongan, LTO-CAR Regional Director Francis Almora, DILG-CAR Regional Director Marlo Iringan and reps from the City Tourism Office.
The DOT already sent more than 100 foreign tourists who were stranded in the Cordillera region while another "Hatid Turista Program" is being mounted for other locally stranded tourists. (JDP/ RMC- PIA CAR)