Batangas dive operators seek Anilao reopening
Dive operators in Mabini town in Batangas province are asking national government agencies to consider allowing the underwater sport to resume, citing it as a much safer activity this time than leisure travels to the beach.
Jake Calangi, president of the Resort Owners Association of Mabini (ROAM), said more than 2,000 resort operators, instructors and boatmen in the popular diving spot of Anilao, have lost their jobs since the Taal Volcano eruption in January and the coronavirus outbreak in March.
They were ecstatic about a municipal government issuance in August that allowed local resorts to reopen, only to be shuttered anew by the national Joint Task Force COVID Shield after two weeks, Calangi said.
ROAM wrote an appeal to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) on Sept. 22 and the Department of Tourism (DOT) on Tuesday.
In its position paper, the group said that like golf, it considered scuba diving an “outdoor, noncontact sport” and thus should be allowed based on the IATF’s June 25 guidelines, as long as health protocols, such as wearing of face masks, social distancing and no sharing of equipment are observed.
“Scuba diving is done in open water. It is recognized as a sport that’s why there is a Philippine Commission on Sports Scuba Diving. It is noncontact because physical contact is not necessary among a group of divers [underwater],” Calangi said in a phone interview on Wednesday.
Mabini’s resort operators also could not help compare their situation to private swimming pools in Pansol District in Calamba City that have since resumed at 50-percent capacity when Laguna province eased into modified general community quarantine (GCQ) in September.
“I don’t see the rationale. Batangas has much less number of [positive] cases. We follow the 30-percent [guest limit] all the more because unlike other [venues], our families, our kids, stay here, too,” Calangi said.
Mabini recorded 37 cases, with no death and new infections as of Sept. 29.
Yet Batangas, like the virus epicenter Metro Manila, stays under the stricter GCQ until Oct. 31. Other provinces in Calabarzon, except Batangas, have eased into a more relaxed quarantine status.
Based on the Department of Health count on Sept. 25, Batangas (with 6,342 cases) has the second lowest number of infection in the region, but Abigail Andres, provincial director of the Department of the Interior and Local Government, said it recorded a faster doubling time rate compared with other provinces, the reason the government could not relax quarantine protocols.
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