Scuba diving sector needs revision of outdated rules

Ehda Dagooc (The Freeman) - November 28, 2014 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines - The Philippine Commission on Sports Scuba Diving (PCSSD) will be updating the implementing rules and regulations of the recreational and technical scuba diving sector in the Philippines to maximize the sector’s potential in the tourism market.

PCSSD commissioner Benedict Reyes said the Philippines could have taken the number one spot as the scuba diving destination in Asia for having pioneered the introduction of scuba diving activities in the region, however faced a setback with an IRR that dates back to 1978. The original IRR was established during the Marcos regime.

To keep up with industry standards, the country needs to update its scuba diving rules and regulations to conform with the different dynamics, hobbyists demands, and even industry terminologies.

Aside from proper scuba diving shop accreditation, there are dozens of concerns that the industry is facing such as over-charging of diving site fees, safety, and responsible scuba diving standards, among others.

Reyes, who owns "Dive Republic" which has outlets in Quezon City and Anilao, Batangas, said that the "Philippines is a big diving site" as it has a huge potential to attract the premium scuba diving market of the world especially European divers. However, it has to upgrade its IRR to be able to take off as a preferred diving site not only in Asia but in the whole world.

In the Philippines, Reyes admitted that aside from the Tubbataha Reef in Palawan, the Visayas is among the top pick diving destinations for hobbyists, saying the region offers wide choices of good diving sites both for leisure diving or for professional divers.

In Asia, he said the Philippines is a pioneer in introducing the scuba diving activity, influenced by the existence of US military bases in the Philippines mostly during the regime of Marcos. But this potential has not been taken cared of as an important segment in the tourism industry as what has been done in other countries like Thailand.

PCSSD is the national agency under the Department of Tourism (DOT), mandated to formulate rules and regulations, safety standards, and operating procedures for the development of recreational and technical scuba diving in the Philippines, in coordination with DOT standards and regulations office.

Reyes said the Philippines is lagging behind in terms of tapping its potential to seize the multi-million-dollar scuba diving tourist market. But, the country can still catch up if both the government and private sectors will work hand-in-hand in promoting the sector.

Tourism secretary Ramon Jimenez recently announced that the Philippines will make diving as one of the frontliners of the country in its international tourism promotions.

Jimenez said the tourism department would now be banking on the Philippines being the center of biodiversity in their marketing strategy.

“We will make diving in the Philippines, a major force for tourists to come,” the tourism chief said,

The revenue in diving makes up a quarter of the total tourism revenue.  Divers account to not less than five percent of the country’s tourists.

The Philippines ranks high among scuba diving enthusiasts all over the world.

Central Visayas region has four top diving spots known in the world, these are the Malapascua Islet, Moalboal, Balicasag Island (Bohol), and Apo Island (Negros).

However, scuba diving accounts only for 10 percent of the total tourist arrivals in the Philippines. (FREEMAN)



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