Department of Tourism (DOT) Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat on Wednesday, Dec. 9, expressed support for the continued development of dive tourism in Anilao, otherwise known as the birthplace of scuba diving in the Philippines.
During the stakeholders meeting hosted by Mabini Mayor Noel Luistro, Puyat encouraged the business sector—specifically the dive establishment operators—to strictly uphold health and safety protocols, and work together to improve the readiness of Anilao for dive tourism under the new normal.
The dive industry, as part of the tourism sector, also bore the brunt of the COVID-19 crisis.
“The Department is hard at work not only for the slow but sure reopening of our destinations but also on the persistent but guarded development of the dive tourism industry,” Puyat said in her opening remarks.
Puyat, who also chairs the Philippine Commission on Sports Scuba Diving (PCSSD), said the DOT’s attached agency is mandated to implement the safety standards for dive tourism.
Among the challenges faced by dive operators are the non-compliance of some dive establishments on the minimum health and safety guidelines, the low revenue and high unemployment rates, the lack of trained medical personnel to operate the hyperbaric chamber, the need for installation and maintenance of mooring buoys to protect dive sites, and the high cost of COVID-19 tests.
The PCSSD has committed to continue waiving the accreditation fees for dive establishments and professionals; conducting subsidized trainings for dive professionals; organizing events that will attract guests; providing either online or hybrid platform for selling and promoting dive packages throughout the dive media network and community.
The tourism chief also cited efforts to lower the cost of reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction RT-PCR tests as a major requirement for travel under the new normal. Mayor Luistro agreed to pay for the RT-PCR tests of all tourism front liners in his area.
As of Dec. 5, the DOT Region 4A has issued 51 Provisional Certificates of Authority to Operate (PCAO) to dive establishments in Mabini, Batangas, 28 of which are PCSSD-accredited.
Anilao has more than 40 documented dive sites and serves as a playground to underwater macro photographers due to the notable presence of nudibranchs and other critters.
It consistently leads as a macro diving destination in several global surveys of world-renowned dive media, such as Scuba Diving Magazine’s Readers Choice Awards and Sport Diver.
During the meeting, the dive establishments in attendance include Saltitude Dive & Beach Resort, Mabini Boat Owners Association, Anilao Macro Spotters Inc., Kapit Balai, Buceo Anilao Beach & Dive Resort, Casa Escondida Anilao Resort & Dive Center, Solitude Acacia Resort, Philpan Diving Resort, 200 Bar Dive Shop, Aiyanar Beach & Dive Resort, Anilao Matahari, Anilao Photo Academy, Arthur’s Place Dive Resort, Anilao Scuba Dive Center, Bontoc Seaview Guest House, Casa Bahia Dive Resort, Pier Uno Dive Resort, Rustique Rue, Vivere Azure, Amor Laut (Vistamar), Camp Netanya Resort & Spa, and Anilao Awari Bay Resort.
“We must continue to hold hands and use this period as an opportune time to reassess our programs, projects and activities to make them more responsive to the needs of the dive tourism sector,” Puyat noted.