By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Sunday pushed for the mandatory assignment of qualified lifeguards in all public swimming pools and bathing facilities in the country.
Gatchalian stressed the necessity of requiring lifeguards in public swimming pools to prevent the recurring incidence of drowning every summer.
“Of the 56 deaths that occurred this past Holy Week, 45 or 80 percent was due to drowning,” Gatchalian said citing data from the Philippine National Police (PNP).
“This only emphasizes the need to have lifeguards in swimming and bathing facilities,” he stressed.
Gatchalian, in filing Senate Bill No. 997, said there was a need to address the often-disregarded essential requirement of the presence of a lifeguard in swimming pools and bathing areas by establishing a formula, based on World Health Organization (WHO) standards, for the number of lifeguards required to be on duty at public swimming pools.
In pushing for the measure, the senator said each public swimming pool should have at least one qualified lifeguard—certified by any nationally-recognized organization accredited by the Department of Health (DOH)—for every 250 meters of pool during operating hours.
The bill, likewise, mandates the DOH to strictly impose the lifeguard requirement and increases the criminal liabilities of pool operators who fail to comply with the requirement.
“Taon-taon na lang may mga nalulunod at namamatay dahil kulang o walang kakayanan ang mga pool facilities na sagipin at iligtas ang mga biktima (Every year, there are reported cases of death due to drowning precisely because pool facilities lack the necessary mechanisms to save these victims),” he said.
“It is high time that these very preventable deaths are stopped,” Gatchalian said.
The bill requires pool operators to provide the appropriate local government unit (LGUs) with a certification and supporting documents to prove that they have hired and are currently employing the required number of lifeguards.
For their part, the LGUs are tasked to ensure compliance of all public swimming pools through periodic inspections in coordination with local health officers.