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Keeping Philippine tourism safe: Tourism Police on Luzon Island

Keeping Philippine tourism safe: Tourism Police on Luzon Island

Baguio, on the Philippines’ Luzon island, is a mountain town of universities and resorts. Called the “City of Pines,” it’s particularly popular in summer due to unusually cooler weather. At its center is Burnham Park, with gardens and a lake. Nearby, Baguio Cathedral, completed in 1936, has a rose-hued exterior. The main thoroughfare is Session Road, lined with shops, restaurants and entertainment options.

Tourism is a major money earner in this city and a specially trained tourism police have been introduced. Police officers in g-strings and traditional Cordillera tapis (indigenous skirts) mixed around with costumed children on Sunday after the Baguio City Police Office relaunched the city’s tourism police force.

Close to 40 police have been manning key tourist destinations in the summer capital, “to assure Baguio visitors that we are here to make sure they are safe,” said Police Col. Allen Rae Co, Baguio police director.

Various groups staged Halloween events over the weekend, drawing children to Session Road since Saturday. The yuletide, which is Baguio’s peak tourist season, has also started.

The public re-introduction of the Tourism police is tied to the city’s new safer city initiative, which involves setting up security cameras and other surveillance devices around the city to help a government command center manage traffic, respond to emergencies, and detect fugitives, said Mayor Benjamin Magalong, who graced the launching program held along downtown Session Road.

The command center will be equipped with an artificial intelligence system that would have facial recognition software, the mayor said earlier this week, but it would not intrude private spaces.

Magalong said the system would monitor areas with high crime rates. The first of its kind in the country, the P200 million safer city program would be financed by Malacañang.

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“We also have the friendliest cops,” said Magalong, a retired police general who developed a computer used crime mapping system when he served as Cordillera police director.