DIVING operators and allied businesses in Samal have asked the city government to reassess various local fees imposed on visitors to attract more tourists in this specialized tourism sector.
Alfred P. Medina, an official of the Philippine Commission on Sports Scuba Diving (PCSSD), said Samal Island’s diving community has already asked the Department of Tourism (DoT) for assistance in their campaign for more “reasonable” diving costs.
“In our last meeting with DoT, we were already given assurance that the LGU (local government unit) of Samal will sit down with us. The cost is hurting the diving community,” Mr. Medina said during the PEP Talks media briefing at SM Lanang Premier last week.
“I suppose it’s a work in progress because I think the LGU is very interested to know the sentiments of the diving community especially after the lockdown, all of us are affected with this (coronavirus pandemic) and when it comes to fees and access to the dive sites, there has to be a better way to manage it,” he added.
In January this year, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said she wants to enhance the promotion of Davao Region’s dive sites as the travel industry strengthens outdoor destinations for its recovery program.
The DoT has identified the Island Garden City of Samal as the top destination in the region with 14 dive sites and established dive operators. Several new sites have also been identified in the provinces of Davao Oriental, Davao De Oro, and Davao del Sur.
“Samal is the most accessible and we have very good dive sites. I’ve been diving a lot also in Davao Oriental in Tarragona, Cateel, Boston, and there are so many good dive sites there,” Mr. Medina said.
He underscored that closer cooperation among local governments, tourism officials, the PCSSD, and scuba divers is needed in all these areas to create a “diver-friendly” atmosphere.
This means, he said, that there is an organized access to the dive sites, security, and fair and reasonable diving fees.
“All of these have to be a concerted effort between the private sector and the LGU,” he said.
There are more than 500 certified divers in Davao Region, he noted.
Samal is holding a dive festival on May 28 to 29 as part of the month-long Summer Saya sa Isla Festival.
“I had a meeting with all the diving establishments in Davao Region last week together with the DoT and we came up with activities that will be highlighted in the festival, scuba diving and free diving. We are inviting all the certified divers to join in the festival,” he said. — Maya M. Padillo