THE implementation of the Summit & Sea tourism bubble between Baguio City and San Fernando in La Union has been stalled from proper implementation as planned due to issues with travel requirements, City Tourism Officer Alec Mapalo revealed on Wednesday.
Mapalo said that while the bubble is already in place in some capacity, it has not been properly implemented as intended in accordance with initial plans, and thus is meanwhile on hold.
“The aim really is for us to act as if we are one entity or government unit so we will just have one registration and unified protocols, meaning the same requirements. But they have to comply as well with provincial government requirements, which is entirely different from ours,” Mapalo said.
A major point of conflict is the La Union government requiring reverse transcriptase – polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests for entering travelers, as opposed to Baguio accepting both RT-PCR and the vastly cheaper antigen tests.
With the inability to adopt a uniform set of travel protocols, travel to and from the two local governments in the bubble has become stalled as San Fernando attempts to gain permission to adopt Baguio’s more liberal and relaxed entry protocols.
Currently, San Fernando is seeking permission from the provincial and regional governments and inter-agency task force (IATF), as well as guidance from the Department of Interior and Local Government to enable the adoption of Baguio’s protocols.
However, Mapalo remains optimistic about both tourism growth in Baguio and the realization of the Summit & Sea bubble.
He says that the bubble could still be implemented in its intended form within the year, possibly by August or September.
He also says that the demand will still be there for travel, despite the year having passed peak season.
“It’s already the rainy season, our traditional peak season is summer but that was when lockdowns and restrictions were at its peak, so we did not experience that surge in arrivals. When finally, leisure travel was allowed on June 1, we thought it might not be the usual because it’s the rainy season, but looking at the numbers, there are still a lot itching to travel,” Mapalo said.