DESPITE massive losses incurred by the heavily tourism-based economy in Sagada, Mayor James Pooten says that it is “unlikely” for the municipality to reopen to tourism and visitors any time soon.

Originally set to reopen in mid-September, Sagada is going to remain closed for the foreseeable future, Pooten said. 

“In our current situation, I don’t see us opening this September, especially with cases in other areas surging,” Pooten said.

Sagada currently has a total of 644 COVID-19 infections, part of the current total of 5,087 across the entirety of Mountain Province.

With neighbors Benguet and Ifugao logging some 1,144 and 277 active cases respectively, and with the entirety of the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) seeing some 5,542 active cases, Pooten said that Sagada will remain closed to outsiders..

He said that while establishments in the town are getting ready to adapt to tourism under COVID-19, they will first establish an online visitor registration site as well as review August’s tourism dry-run activities in the region through the Municipal Tourism Council and the Inter-Agency Task Force.

As part of preparations to eventually reopen to tourism, Sagada’s Municipal Health Office has conducted a four-day vaccination of its various tourism stakeholders.

According to Pooten, some 70 percent of the municipality’s central business district is tourism-related.

With tourism at a halt, the municipality has seen massive losses in income, with local taxpayers in 2021 having low to no tax due to lack of income. Residents have also begun leaving the tourism industry for other employment, though Pooten says that the lack of activity means that many locals are unable to provide for themselves.

“To tell you frankly, there is no more employment,” Pooten said.