Camiguin launches dive fest, seeks help from divers to keep reefs pristine

Bobby Lagsa
The provincial government hopes that the Dive Festival will attract more tourists

READY GO! local skin diver dives into the clear waters of Camiguin on June 21, 2019, during the launching of the Camiguin Dive Festival. Photo by Bobby Lagsa/Rappler

CAMIGUIN ISLAND — In an effort to attract more tourists into this island province, the provincial government launched on Sunday, June 23 its first annual dive festival that will last until August 31, 2019.

The dive festival is part of the Local Government Unit’s  sustainable tourism drive through its 4 major themes: volcano tourism, heritage tourism, farm and ecotourism, and dive tourism.

Camigun has around 30 dive sites scattered throughout the island’s provincial waters. 

This tiny island off Northern Mindanao already attracts 800,000 tourists annually and it is one of the country’s most visited island. The dive festival aims to put the island in the country’s prime dive circuits by showcasing its underwater paradise.

“We are spearheading the first-ever Camiguin Dive Festival promoting the island’s rich, unique, diverse and pristine dive sites. This is in line with our vision in developing Camiguin that meets global standards of sustainable and responsible tourism,” outgoing Camiguin Governor Maria Luisa D. Romualdo said.

According to veteran diver Bo Mancao, the island’s underwater is pristine and could be one of the best dive sites in the country right now.

DIVE TME. A dive boat hold anchors above divers location as the majestic volcano Mount Hibok-hibok looms over the distance. Photo by Bobby Lagsa/Rappler

Romualdo said they are taking care of their marine-protected areas through organizing residents and fisherfolk to safeguard the dive sites and fish sanctuaries around the island.

But there is still so much that needs to be done to completely preserve their marine resources and turn to tourism as an alternative to the daily economic activities of the residents.

Mancao said that fish cages put by fishermen are threatening the corals. “This fish cages are damaging the corals, which is the home of fish,” Mancao said.

Romualdo said visitors to the province, especially sea divers, also play a role in the protection and preservation of Camiguin’s marine life. “So anything you see in the marine-protected areas, in the dive spots, which you think can destroy our coral reefs, our fish, please feel free to remove it. I will give you that authority,” she said.

More dive shops accredited

Department of Tourism-10 (DOT-10) regional director Marie Elaine Unchuan said that the Philippine Commission on Sports Scuba Diving has already accredited 6 dive shops in Camiguin, owing to the increasing number of divers who visit the province.

SHOWTIME. Tourist Kristian Marfori jumps off the boat as he enjoys snorkeling off Camiguin Island. Photo by Bobby Lagsa/Rappler

Unchuan said that more operators are investing in dive shops, which would mean more local and international divers are coming over to Camiguin.

“We’ve talked to the stakeholders to really up their game to develop dive facilities and dive shops that are DOT-accredited and worthy of international visitors,” Unchuan said.

Outgoing Mambajao mayor and governor-elect Jurdin Jesus Romualdo shared that he once visited one shop to see his dive rates. “I want the dive shops to be competitive and I don’t want them close shops, I want them to stay here,” JJ Romualdo said.

“You can see we have a good percentage of foreigners. We’re tapping the European market,” Unchuan said

Camiguin provincial tourism officer Candice Naome Dael said they expect the volume of tourists to increase because of the Dive Festival and other tourist attractions.

Camiguin’s regular tourism activities include Panaad, a lenten season penance walk around the island and the Lanzones Festival, the island’s signature fruit.

Dael said that based on their data, there were 800,000 tourists visited the island in 2018 and they are nearing that mark this year. “We are projecting a million or more tourists this year,” Dael said.

Dael also added that there are more tourism-related investment in the island that will cater to the needs of tourists. — Rappler.com

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