Operators: Monitoring rafting industry vital

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Sunday, June 22, 2014


SOME river rafting outfitters in Cagayan de Oro City said the monitoring of rafting industry is vital and that they have been pressing on the local government long time ago.

“We need the City Government to monitor the rafting community, evaluate the river guides’ performances, constant check on our equipment, among others. There is so much more the government needs to do,” 1st Rafting Adventure co-owner Ezzard Kim Domingo said Saturday.

Last week, the city created Task Force Rapids that will monitor all aspects especially on safety issues after a tragic accident befell the rafting industry on June 13 that claimed its first fatality since it began its tours in 1995.

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Domingo said the monitoring to strengthen and meet the needs of the rafting community and its patrons should have started years back.

However, the Oro Association of Rafters (Oar) said that trainings for the river guides are costly especially when the invites would come from the international rafting communities.

“What we need from the city government is to pay trainers from the International Rafting Federation to train our local river guides,” Oar president Vitalino Espulgas said.

He said the trainings could sharpen the capabilities of the river guides who are the crucial players during rafting runs.

Domingo also cited the price inconsistency.

“There is a lack of unity among white water companies in terms of prices. The community agrees on the standard price; later on, there will be some who will drop their prices,” he said.

Red Rafts owner Rex Tapongot voiced the same sentiment as Domingo’s.

“No regulation has been done kasi. It is only us, the community. When some clients would try to ask discounts and the owners would agree on this, they did not know that safety might be compromised,” Tapongot said.

Observing protocol

Domingo said there is an existing protocol that they follow when someone gets injured or meets an accident.

Guides must be properly oriented on who to call using their mobile phones, which are required of them during the trip. They should call their company and state the emergency. The company will immediately call the hospital to request assistance.

Tapongot added that there are also times that they have to call the Oro Alert for further help.

Understanding the industry

The white water rafting season is from June to August and October to December. However, summer is not an advisable season for tourists to raft since the water is low.

The rafting adventure tour has begun offering the advance rafting course comprising 24-rapids about five years ago. The advance level has been created for those adventurers who thirst for more extreme and long rapids encounters beginning from Sitio Uguaiban in Dansolihon village until its completion in Sitio Cabula in Lumbia vilalge.

The beginners’ course consists of 14 rapids.

Domingo said that rapids have different levels, 1 to 6, based on the international standard of labelling and understanding the river.

Going through the run takes hours. For normal current in the advance level, it will take around three hours, but it can be extended to another one or one and a half hour when the current is strong due to heavy downpour.

Two guides are assigned for a single raft. One is the main guide, the other is the “paddler.” The standard length of the raft that best suits Cagayan de Oro river is 13 feet where eight people (including two guides) can fit in.

Dangerous rapids

The Cagayan de Oro river is classified as Class 3, but its starting point in Sitio Uguiaban of Dansolihon village is classified as Class 4.

The 3rd rapid they call “Makabundol” and the 4th to the last rapid called “Surprise” are the dangerous rapids identified by the rafters.

“Positioning of the rafters and tourists is critical. The trip leader will identify those who can endure paddling the whole trip and those who cannot,” Tapongot said.

Annually, rafters observe changes in the river that affect the flow of the current.

“Year by year, we see changes in the river. There are some boulders moved slightly by the current, undercut rocks deepen, among others. Tropical storm Sendong had contributed 100 percent to the changes of the river. With this, risk is high because of the hazards, but they can all be avoided,” Domingo said.

Rafts

To ensure safety, the rafts are ordered from the US or Korea which are known source of durable and heavy duty rafts. A “well-manufactured” raft has a lifespan of four to five years and can cost up to P170,000 each.

Tapongot said that after the trip, the company checks the rafts and other equipment used to secure the safety of the next tourists who are going to use them.

River guides trainings

A series of trainings are required to the aspiring and current river guides.

The Philippine Red Cross gives a seminar on basic safety for the first-aid training. The second stage is on the tedious river guide training from the IRF where it can last up to six months. However, Tapongot said that their river guides are self-taught based on “personal experience” with the white waters.

“The evaluation of the river guides is difficult and the most crucial part of all the stages. Sometimes, even on their six month, there are still those who lack the skills so we do not deploy them yet,” he added.

Domingo added the river guides are required to study the river morphology which deals with the study of the river, its rocks, the system and the layering of waters.

To add up to the tour, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) teaches the flora and fauna to the river guides for them to name on whenever there is a run.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on June 22, 2014.

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