Camiguin—To attract more tourists into this island province, the provincial government launched on Sunday its first annual dive festival that will last until Aug. 31, 2019.
The dive festival is part of the local government’s sustainable tourism drive through its four major themes: volcano tourism, heritage tourism, farm and ecotourism, and dive tourism.
Camiguin has around 30 dive sites scattered throughout the island’s provincial waters.
This tiny island off Northern Mindanao already attracts 800,000 tourists annually as one of the country’s most visited islands.
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.
Romualdo said they are taking care of their marine-protected areas, even organizing the residents and fisherfolk to safeguard the dive sites and fish sanctuaries around the island.
But much needs to be done to completely preserve their marine resources, and use tourism as an alternative to the daily economic activities of the residents.
Mancao said fish cages put by fishermen are threatening the corals, “which is the home of fish.”
Romualdo said visitors to the province, especially divers, also play a role in the protection and preservation of Camiguin’s marine life.
The governor urged divers to help preserve their reefs.
“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,” Romualdo said.
Department of Tourism-10 regional director Marie Elaine Unchuan said the Philippine Commission on Sports Scuba Diving has already accredited six dive shops in Camiguin, owing to the increasing number of divers who visit the province.
Unchuan said more operators are investing in dive shops, which would mean more local and international divers 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 its 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 added,
“I’m really banking on the dive resorts and all the divers that come here. Help me preserve this beautiful island. I cannot do this alone,” Mayor Romualdo said.
Camiguin provincial tourism officer Candice Naome Dael said they expect the volume of tourists to increase because of the Dive Festival and other tourism attractions here.
Camiguin’s regular tourism activities include Panaad, a Lenten season penance walk around the island, and the Lanzones Festival, after the island’s signature fruit.
Dael said that based on provincial tourism data, Camiguin is nearing the 800,000-visitor mark again this year.
“We are projecting a million or more tourists for this year,” she said, noting that more tourism-related investments on the island will cater to the needs of tourists.
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