Officials of Baguio and San Fernando City, La Union signed on May 7 a memorandum of understanding for the creation of a technical working group that will craft guidelines to streamline and unify entry protocols for tourists coming from both cities.
Taking off from the Ridge and Reef tourism bubble that previously included Ilocos Norte, the Summit and Sea (S&S) bubble between Baguio and San Fernando allows the interchange of tourists using single entry requirements.
The S&S is still part of efforts of reviving the economy through granular reopening of industries such as tourism.
As opposed to the R&R bubble where tourists from Baguio, La Union, and Ilocos Norte register in separate portals of participating local government units, the S&S is for Baguio and San Fernando to have a dedicated module in the Baguio Visita registration portal.
Supervising Tourism Operations Officer Aloysius Mapalo said Baguio will offer the Visita portal as the tourist registration system for both localities. This means residents of Baguio who intend to go to San Fernando City as tourists also have to register at the Visita to be issued a single tourist entry pass.
He said a P2P transport from La Union to Baguio and vice versa will also be negotiated to facilitate travel in both localities.
San Fernando City acting Mayor Alfredo Pablo Ortega added he will ask Gov. Francisco Emmanuel Ortega to organize a meeting with other mayors of La Union to allow the unhampered entry of tourists coming from Baguio who are issued tourist passes.
If traversing via Quirino Highway (Naguilian Road), tourists from Baguio will have to pass through at least three towns of La Union before reaching San Fernando City. If via Kennon Road or Palispis-Aspiras (Marcos) Highway, six towns each before reaching the capital of La Union.
Baguio Mayor Benjamin Magalong and San Fernando City Administrator Aileen Lubiano said they are hoping that if the S&S bubble succeeds, more towns in La Union and Benguet will be included.
Tourism Sec. Bernadette Puyat said she is also hopeful that with the streamlining of requirements, domestic tourism will gain steam.
She said different travel requirements by every LGU discouraged potential tourists from traveling, despite reopening of tourism in select areas in the Philippines.
The DOT secretary added retaining the requirement for tourists to submit negative RT-PCR or antigen test, signed health declaration forms, and triage upon arrival also ensures that the health of tourists and residents alike are not compromised.
The TWG is set to announce the travel guidelines anytime this month. – Rimaliza A. Opiña