The service industry has been greatly affected by the pandemic. When COVID -19 struck, hotels had to shut their door, the boards were closed, and curfews were imposed to keep the infections in check. This means no local or international tourist was allowed to visit the attraction sites.
However, things are slowly getting back to normal. Governments have begun to relax the travel restrictions as the economy is slowly opening up. In the Philippines, the economy is slowly opening up, and President Rodrigo Duterte even urged the public to embrace local travel. The move is expected to boost the country's economy.
For this reason, the president urged the ministry of health to come up with protocols to protect the travelers. Without wasting time, we'll look at the Department of Tourism travel guidelines and why diving is allowed in Batangas.
Diving now allowed in Batangas
On October 14th, 2020, the Department of Tourism announced that Batangas was allowed to accept guests. Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, the tourism secretary, stated dive establishments in Batangas Province, which is still under General Community Quarantine (GCQ) so far. Nonetheless, the regions have been allowed to receive guests for recreational diving. The decision was given, considering the general preparedness of the region and its impact on the tourism industry.
Puyat, at the same time, is the Chairperson of the Philippine Commission on Sports Scuba Diving (PCSSD). In her capacity as the Chairperson, she gave a green light for the operation of dive establishments under community quarantine when she signed the guidelines for operations. However, the approval was given after the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) approved the recreational diving in destinations under the General Community Quarantine (GCQ).
Nonetheless, the Department Of Tourism had to determine the region's ideal for recreational diving. Simultaneously, before the IATF-EID resolutions, one was not allowed to between the areas under General Community Quarantine (GCQ) or even GCQ sections modified for recreational diving. Bernadette Romulo continued to state that they had supported the diving community in Batangas since it's one of the Philippines' most premier diving destinations. The secretary further said that they remain optimistic and cautious about reopening recreational diving.
For this reason, she urged every travel visiting the region to ensure they get tested before visiting the region. She also emphasized that those who have a valid DOT or PCSSD Accreditation shall be permitted to operate. Though guests from GCQ and modified GCQ area are welcomed in the region, those who are pregnant or have comorbidities are not allowed. The Department of Tourism (DOT) guarantees safety, by providing a digital contact tracing application to the Mabini, Batangas local government.
Moreover, according to the DOT, there are six dive facilities and two liveboards that have been accredited by PCSSD. This is in region 4 -A, while in the entire state, there are 241 dive establishments and ten liveaboard boats accredited. As of October 8th, there were about 222 facilities that have been given Certificate of Authority to Operate (CAO), which was issued by the DOT.
Puyat further continued to say the DOT accreditation certifications showed the facilities were in line with the health and safety guidelines. The certification also showed the facility is ready to accept travelers again since their safety was guaranteed amid the pandemic. For this reason, she advised dive resorts and stakeholders to take advantage of the online accreditation platform provided by the state.
Did you know the Philippine is ranked as one of the best dive hubs worldwide? Moreover, it's even ranked the 27th world Travel Awards as the “Best Diving Destination.” Additionally, you'll find south of Manila, accessible by land or sea, with some of the most amazing Luzon's best dive sites. These include Cathedral Rock, Balayan Bay, Mainit Muck, and Twin Rock. This shows why one needs to visit the region and experience what the hubs have to offer amid the pandemic. For the Department of Tourism to ensure all divers are safe amid the pandemic, every traveler is expected to carry their own set of gear instead of renting. This, in turn, protects one from contacting the deadly Coronavirus while on vacation.
The principles of the “new norm” for diving
Among the DOT's health regulations is that travelers should bring their gear and use a defog solution for their mask. This is a move by the department to keep recreational divers during the reopening of sports tourism amid the pandemic. According to Puyat, visitors' safety and wellness remain their top priority even as diving and sports tourism reopens. Therefore, the guidelines have to be followed to the letter.
The DOT made the guidelines that govern the industry and operations done in the dive facility. Other agencies that took part in formulating the laws include the Philippine Commission on Sports Scuba Diving (PCSSD), the Inter-Agency Task-Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID). The guidelines stipulated diving as an individual, which is a non–contact sport, is allowed. This is only permitted in areas under the general community quarantine (GCQ).
Under the PCSSD Memorandum Circular No. 2020-001, the guidelines stipulated dictate how things shall be done in the New Normal. Each visitor or tourist is required to bring their own set of scuba gear and equipment boxes. This means there is no sharing or renting of the equipment to keep the travelers safe.
Moreover, the divers are expected to hand wash throughout the day, maintain social distance, and wear a protective mask at all times. Though, when in an actual dive, the mask shall be exempted. The same applies to the crew, passengers and the boat has to be disinfected before and after use.
Simultaneously, the dive facilities are expected to provide a defog solution consisting of shampoo or soap. The particular solution is to be used by the tourists on their dive masks. Furthermore, the spitting or use of saliva as a defogger is prohibited. Puyat stated that violation of any of the guidelines would lead to appropriate fines and penalties. This includes the revocation of PCSSD accreditation.
On the other hand, there are dive courses that one must undertake before heading into the waters. These classes can sometimes be practical, while sometimes it can be theoretical. However, both DOT and PCSSD advocate for the classes to be done online if the class is theoretical. But if the class has to be particular where people meet to learn, the lesson should have a ratio of 1:1 or 1:2.
Bernadette Romulo-Puyat has continued to do impressive work to ensure the travelers are safe. This is seen from the PCSSD Administrative Order No. 2020-001 she signed. The order states only dive establishments with PCSSD accreditation or DOT Certificate of Authority to Operate (CAO) are permitted to operate at 50% of their operational capacity. Plus, a guest is expected to present a copy of their negative RT-PCR (Reverse Transcription-polymerase chain reaction) test result. The results presented shouldn't be earlier than 48hour before arrival into the dive establishment.
The Philippines has even earned recognition as a premier diving destination due to these guidelines. The nation was awarded as the Best Overseas Diving Area at the Marine Diving Awards 2020 in Tokyo. The nation also received nominations as Asia's leading Dive Destination and the World's Leading Dive Destination. This was done at the 27th World Travel Awards. Moreover, the travel guidebook published by Lonely Planet named Cebu, Tubbataha, and Palawan to be one of the six national parks around the globe with amazing diving waters.
Diving vacations with Robocash
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The Department of Tourism has done its best to ensure one is safe when visiting a tourist site. However, all these measures could be in vain if you don't obey the rules and regulations. Always ensure you keep a social distance, wear a mask, and sanitize your hands always.
Nonetheless, you may desire to go for a vacation, but you lack the funds to sustain your trip. If that is the case, you can request a loan from RoboCash. Do let your dream be crushed due to finances, but remember to borrow what you can payback.