TO PREPARE for the eventual rebound of the tourism industry, the Department of Tourism (DOT) in Central Visayas is conducting dive assessments in the towns of Cebu Province.

Specifically, the DOT 7 is exploring Samboan, Santander, Catmon, Medellin and Bogo City as potential diving destinations in the province.

DOT 7 Director Shahlimar Tamano said dive assessments help them determine the tourism assets of these towns.

“We bring professionals there to check the status of the corals, if there are turtles and other marine life and whether the current or the depth of the site is safe for diving,” he said.

These towns, Tamano added, have marine protected areas or sanctuaries.

“We are assessing to see what they have, to encourage investors. We also partner with the mayors and local government units to check on what we can do more,” he said.

Pandemic impact

The DOT 7 is pushing for diving, particularly among the locals to help the diving sector and the tourism industry recover from the lingering effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Philippine Commission on Scuba Diving (PCSD) said since the pandemic started last year, scuba divers in Cebu, including those who operate shops, and professional scuba diving trainers, have been struggling to sustain their livelihood.

“It’s sad because we are hurting too. Divers now are going fishing in dive sites,” said PCSD commissioner Bo Mancao during a recent Cebu tourism coffee table discussion.

Mancao dismissed impressions that scuba diving is only for the affluent. Instead, he said, it is safe and its cost can be adjusted.

He also stressed that Cebu has to sustain the industry despite the absence of foreign divers.

“We don’t want our little niche market to be forgotten,” he said, encouraging Cebuanos, even non-divers, to try this leisure activity, besides just spending time on the beach and swimming.

Cebu as diving destination

Cebu Province is blessed to have internationally renowned diving spots like Oslob, Moalboal, Malapascua and Mactan, which are already enjoying the presence of investors and operators.

Tamano noted that DOT 7 and Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia are aiming to position the whole Cebu Province as a diving destination.

“These other towns have sanctuaries, but our position is we want the whole island to be a dive destination,” he said.

Dive expo, recognition

Meanwhile, Tamano said Central Visayas was supposed to host the 2021 Philippine International Dive Expo in September or October. But due to the pandemic, the expo will be moved to February 2022.

Cebu is a top diving destination in Asia, which makes diving-related businesses a thriving venture in the province, especially during the pre-pandemic period.

Japan-based Marine Diving Magazine cited the islands of Bohol, Negros Oriental and Cebu, particularly Moalboal and Malapascua, as among the best diving sites in the Philippines at the Marine Diving Awards 2020 in Tokyo, Japan.

The magazine said the diving sites have “captured the hearts of many divers and make them want to revisit the Philippines again and again. And with its easy access from Japan and reasonable tour prices, the Philippines is no doubt a first pick for many diving lovers.” (JOB with KOC)