Mayor closes Baguio night market due to violations of health protocols

Published December 2, 2020, 10:07 PM

by Hanah Tabios

The popular Baguio City night market will resume operations only if all concerned stakeholders will properly perform their roles, the local chief executive said Wednesday evening. 

Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong (Photo from Benjie Magalong – Public Servant / Facebook / MANILA BULLETIN)
Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong (Photo from Benjie Magalong – Public Servant / Facebook / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong suspended the night market run along Harrison Road a few hours after its reopening on Tuesday evening due to “apparent crowd control lapses.”

But he said he is taking full responsibility for the incident.

“I immediately suspended yung (the) operations ng (of the) night market and my instruction is to convene again, organize another meeting with the stakeholders, emphasize the role of each stakeholders and at the same time, identify the vulnerabilities and the weaknesses and discuss the solution,” the mayor said at a virtual press conference. 

Magalong, who as also the country’s contact tracing czar, joined the chairmen of the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force (BIATF) in their visit to the island Wednesday in a bid to maintain the COVID-19-free status of the world-famous tourist destination which reopened to local tourists recently. A team from Baguio will go to Boracay to train contact tracers. 

“Once we have the commitment of the stakeholders that they are going to perform their roles and at the same time clarify all these issues about these glitches, that’s the only time that probably we will again resume the operations of the night market,” he added. 

The lighting of the giant Christmas tree in Baguio, as well as the opening of its famed night market, drew criticisms on social media last night as throng of residents and visitors were out on the streets to witness the event, visibly ignoring physical distancing guidelines. 

But Magalong clarified that health and safety protocols were in place and a team from the local government unit was deployed to monitor the situation. 

“What we did was to closely monitor it. So, nagkaroon kami ng tatlong videos noong lugar o site (we have three videos of the place or site): one at 8:30 (p.m), one at 9: 30 (p.m.), one at 10:30 (p.m.) to closely monitor, and we deployed our PNP (Philippine National Police) and our POSD (Public Order and Safety Division) personnel,” he said.

“At 8:30 (p.m.) manageable siya (it was manageable),  9:30 (p.m.) dumagsa na yung mga tao at doon na kami nagkaroon ng problema (people start to gather and that’s the time we had a problem). After an hour, nacontrol yung crowd (crowd was controlled) and at 10:30 (p.m.) manageable na ulit yung crowd (the crowd was manageable again).”

Magalong said people just felt the excitement after months of lockdown. 

“You blame me for what happened and I am doing my best to correct,” he said. 

“So, these are all lessons sa amin (on us). Rest assured that once we reopen the night market, hindi na ulit mangyayari yung situation kagabi (the situation last night will not happen again).”

The city pursued the resumption of the reopening of the night market as part of the thrust to reopen the economy and restore the livelihood of the displaced vendors greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In the same press conference, tourism chief Bernadette Romulo-Puyat also reminded the local heads to properly implement the minimum health and safety protocols to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks in tourist destinations. 

“Palagi naman naming pinapaalala, may COVID pa tayo (We always remind that we still have COVID-19)  but then, we can restart the economy. We can restart tourism provided that minimum health and safety protocols should be followed,” she said.