Travel: Health, safety rules drawn up for recreational diving in the Philippines and reopening of sports tourism

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MANILA, PHILIPPINES – ‘Bring your own gear and use a defog solution for your mask’. These are among the health and safety rules for recreational diving set by the Department of Tourism (DOT) as the country eases into the reopening of sports tourism activities with the relaxation of quarantine restrictions.

“Our priority remains the same with the reopening of diving and sports tourism. By following these guidelines, we continue to uphold the safety and well-being of the tourists and the industry workforce,” Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said.

The guidelines governing the operations of dive establishments in the country were drawn up by the DOT’s attached agency, the Philippine Commission on Sports Scuba Diving (PCSSD), following the Inter-Agency Task Force for Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) resolution including diving as an individual non-contact sport allowed in areas under General Community Quarantine (GCQ).

 

PCSSD Memorandum Circular No. 2020-001 or the Health and Safety Guidelines Governing the Operations of Dive Establishments in the New Normal recently signed as well by Puyat provided instructions and regulations for the dive operations under the new normal; employee management, reservation and booking; check-in, reception, and general guest handling; facility-related policies; diver-specific policies; boat diving; dive center/shop operations; group dive trips; conduct of dive courses and/or trainings; and emergency response and medical clearances.

The guidelines, as far as practicable, require guests to bring their own set of scuba gear and equipment box. Divers are reminded of the liberal use of hand disinfectants and hand washing throughout the day, the practice of physical distancing, and the wearing of protective face masks when not on an actual dive.

The dive establishments are also required to provide a defog solution consisting of soap or shampoo for guests to use on their dive masks. Spitting on the mask or the use of saliva as a defogger is prohibited.

Even when on dive boats, boat crew and passengers must wear face masks and observe physical distancing. Dive boats must also be disinfected before and after use.

“Violation of any of these guidelines will subject the dive establishments to appropriate fines and penalties, including the revocation of PCSSD accreditation,” Puyat added.

Both the DOT and PCSSD also encourage distance learning or e-learning in teaching the theory part of the dive course. Dive schools are also advised to use current technology and digital platforms and to refer to their certifying agencies for further instruction, available materials, and training techniques.

In case physical training is unavoidable, classrooms may be set up according to physical distancing requirements. Smaller classes with a 1:1 or 1:2 ratio are highly encouraged.

Moreover, Puyat also signed PCSSD Administrative Order No. 2020–001 also known as Guidelines on the Operations on Dive Establishments Under a Community Quarantine.

According to the Administrative Order, only dive establishments with PCSSD accreditation or DOT Certificate of Authority to Operate (CAO), if the dive facility is ancillary to an accommodation establishment, are allowed to operate at 50% operational capacity. Guests are also required to present a negative RT-PCR test result not earlier than forty-eight hours before arrival in the dive establishment as part of the Test-Before-Travel requirement.

The release of the dive health and safety guidelines is a welcome development for the industry as the country continuously earns recognitions as a premier diving destination.

The Philippines was awarded as the Best Overseas Diving Area (overseas category) at the Marine Diving Awards 2020 in Tokyo. The travel guidebook publisher Lonely Planet also cited Tubbataha, Palawan, and Cebu as among the “6 national parks around the world with surprisingly spectacular diving.” The Philippines also received nominations as Asia’s Leading Dive Destination and World’s Leading Dive Destination at the 27th World Travel Awards.

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