Scuba diving sector wants fees regulated

Ehda Dagooc (The Freeman) - December 2, 2014 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines - The Philippine Commission on Sports Scuba Diving is now talking with the Department of Interior and Local Government in a bid to regulate or standardize the scuba diving charges in different diving sites in the Philippines.

PCSSD commissioner Benedict Reyes said that because of the absence of serious regulations in local government units, which hold the jurisdiction of a particular dive site, diving fees are not standardized.

According to Reyes, the common problem among divers and diving centers who usually organized group of scuba diving enthusiasts from all over the world is the loose rates of diving fees, which now largely depends on location and the LGUs.

Reyes said there is a need for the DILG to intervene in this concern as the Philippines is gaining interest from scuba divers especially those from Russia, Europe, China, among others.

On the other hand, during the leadership of former DOT secretary Joseph "Ace" Durano, he had been urging the LGUs as well as diving shop operators in the Philippines, to put premium rates on diving fees, as this kind of potential tourist-drawing product has been under-valued.

As far as scuba diving is concerned, the Philippines ranks high among scuba diving enthusiasts all over the world, thus there is a need for LGUs to put premium on scuba diving fees in their localities.

“We can afford to put premium on pricing,” Durano said.

Diving fees collected by LGUs per head, per area, supposed to be spent for the maintenance of and protection of the marine resources.

In Malapascua Island alone, which is one of the top 10 best diving spots in the Philippines, is only charging P100 per dive, P30 of this will go to barangay Logon, the lone barangay on the islet, and the P70 will go to the government of Bantayan Island.

Not only in Malapascua, but also in other eco-tourism destinations in the Philippines, wherein charging fees for eco-tourism activities aside from scuba diving, such as snorkeling, whale shark interaction in Donsol, Sorgoson, among others are also charging very cheap rates.

Durano mentioned that in Australia, in order for people to see the whale-shark or any marine life contained in an aquarium is charging at least $40 per person, which is around 1,800 in Philippine peso (P46 base exchange).

In Donsol, Sorgoson, which is the whale-shark destination in the Philippines, a boat ride bringing tourists to interact with Butanding (whale-shark) is only charging P3,500 per trip. This is deemed as a very cheap charging rate, considering that maintaining the whale-shark sanctuary should be strictly implemented, and people are willing to pay higher for these kinds of activities.

For scuba diving, which is one of the most expensive hobbies people from all over the world are willing to spend to have the best experience under water.

LGUs should formulate good price points to get good revenue in this kind of activities to operate a sustainable coastal and marine protection program.

“Sustaining our competitiveness in Scuba Diving niche should be seriously implemented. Let pristine waters continue to be pristine,” Durano said earlier.

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

In European Union alone, of the 488 million populations in the 27 member countries combined, a large (growing) chunk of those are divers, and back-packers, and eco-tourism enthusiasts, although, there is also a good number of leisure travelers. (FREEMAN)


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