Baguio eases restrictions for locals, eyes reopening for tourists mid-Oct.

SEVERAL QUARANTINE restrictions in Baguio City are lifted effective Monday, Aug. 31, as the local government takes steps towards “learning to live with the virus” while reviving the economy. Among the regulations that will be eased are the use of quarantine pass to enter shopping malls and other commercial establishments, liquor ban, and movement of senior citizens. “I understand that one needs food for sustenance, but we cannot count out the positive effects of physical activity and the company of friends and family. Which is why, once again, we will try to ease up on restrictions within the city,” Mayor Benjamin B. Magalong said in an advisory released Saturday. “With these eased restrictions, I remind everyone: keep your guards up, and apply minimum health standards in every instance,” he added. Meanwhile, City Tourism Officer Aloysius C. Mapalo announced that the mountain city’s public parks, except the Botanical Garden, will be reopened to residents by September. Mr. Mapalo said this is part of the local government’s efforts “to gradually open the tourism industry” to help revive the economy. “Activities in the parks such as boating, biking, horseback riding, among other related activities, will be allowed, but the public will have to abide by the stringent health and safety protocols, particularly the mandatory wearing of face mask, the observance of physical distancing, and the practice of personal hygiene,” he said in a statement. For tourists, Mr. Mapalo said they moved the planned reopening of the city to mid-October from September as they are still finalizing the Baguio Visitors Information and Travel Assistance (VISITA) online platform. VISITA is a digital registration system that will be used by the city government to regulate the entry of visitors as well as for overall monitoring of the tourism industry’s compliance to health safety standards. As of Aug. 29, the city had 334 coronavirus cases, with 87 active, 239 recoveries, and eight deaths.

P16-M aid given to sugarcane workers in Western Visayas—DoLE

THE DEPARTMENT of Labor and Employment (DoLE) reported that it has released P16 million in aid to sugarcane workers affected by the coronavirus crisis. In a statement on Saturday, DoLE said its regional office in Western Visayas distributed P1,000 per worker under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Law and assistance is continuing with the available budget. “We wanted to reach out to our sugarcane workers because they are one of the most vulnerable and marginalized workers in the country and the COVID-19 (coronavirus disease) pandemic had added to their hardships,” DoLE Regional Director Mary Agnes Capigon said. — Gillian M. Cortez

Whale shark count in Bicol up by 19

THE NUMBER of whale sharks in Bicol’s protected seascape is up to 69 since the start of the year after 19 new individuals were spotted in addition to 50 identified as returning, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Philippines reported on Friday. The whale sharks, the largest living fish and known locally as butanding, are in the Ticao-Burias Pass Protected Seascape (TBPPS), a critical ecosystem that is monitored by the organization. It is a popular tourism site with the town of Donsol as jump-off point. “It’s important that we continue our whale shark monitoring efforts despite the lockdown. It’s our obligation as WWF-Philippines to continue monitoring activities, and to let the world know of the whale sharks of Donsol and their importance to their ecosystem,” WWF-Philippines Donsol Project Manager Jun E. Narvadez said in a statement. “Our Butanding Interaction Officers, our spotters, they all help us monitor the whale sharks. This is a community effort that helps both the whale sharks and the people of Donsol. Hopefully by November, we’ll be able to restart our tourism activities again,” Mr. Narvadez said. A total of 733 whale sharks have been documented in the region since monitoring began in 2007. Butandings are listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Red tide warning up in Siaton, Negros Oriental

THE BUREAU OF Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) has warned consumers against eating shellfish collected in Siit Bay in the town of Siaton, Negros Oriental after it tested positive for red ride contamination. In its latest shellfish bulletin, BFAR said Siit Bay joins other red tide positive areas such as Puerto Princesa Bay in Palawan; the coastal waters of Dauis and Tagbilaran City in Bohol; Tambobo Bay and Bais Bay in Negros Oriental; Cancabato Bay, Tacloban City in Leyte; Balite Bay in Davao Oriental; and Lianga Bay and the coastal waters of Hinatuan in Surigao del Sur. All types of shellfish and Acetes sp. or alamang harvested from these areas are not safe for human consumption. However, other types of marine species are safe to eat provided these are fresh, washed thoroughly, and internal organs such as gills and intestines are removed before cooking. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave