Broadcaster Karen Davila has urged the Department of Tourism and the local government of Surigao del Norte to ensure the safety of the tourists flocking Siargao island following a “traumatic” experience.
Davila narrated on her Facebook that it was her family’s first time trip to Siargao on March 28, but it “gone wrong” due to the accident that happened to her minor son, David, while taking up surfing lessons.
She said there was no first aider to attend to his son and the surfing instructor suddenly disappeared.
“My son’s whole chest, was bleeding from crisscrossing abrasions, with a deeper gash under the right rib, clearly from hitting the rocks on the shallow waters, his chin bruised and covered with blood, his right hand in cuts like that from a small knife,” Davila said.
“What got me very angry was Jocol Valerio, the trainer – suddenly dissappeared! My husband said after showing him the sari sari store where to buy the Betadine, cotton and gauze, he left them. No one was there to assist my husband or my son who was bleeding! No nurse, no first aid, NO ONE,” she further said.
“At the municipal hospital in Dapa, there were no tetanus vaccines available,” she added.
She said someone had to buy tetanus vaccines, antibiotics and painkillers prescribed by the doctor somewhere else.
“While there was a doctor and a nurse on duty, very helpful and attentive – there were no medicines. Foreigners were at the ER (emergency room) with us and I wondered, how do they attend to so many foreigners visiting the island with this set up?,” Davila said.
When she was able to speak to General Luna Mayor Jaime Rusillon, who visited them, she learned that anybody who surfs in Siargao could train and the instructors have no professional certifications.
“No requirement to be certified. No system of vetting trainers. Anybody with a surf board, who wants to earn P500 an hour can train. Period,” Davila said.
She also found out that there were no life guards, no first aid clinic or trained medical personnel at the beach.
Rusillon told her that the reason was because General Luna was just a fifth class municipality, thus, no clinic, no nurse and no life guard.
“Now, let me make it clear. I am well aware, accidents happen anywhere in the world. Surfing is an extreme sport. But so is skiiing, bungy jumping, paragliding, diving….but accidents can be prevented. And they are in many tourist destinations by putting safety measures and first responders in place,” she said.
“Once a town is SOLD TO TOURISTS, the primary responsibility of both the national and the local government is to ENSURE THE SAFETY OF THE TOURISTS. PERIOD,” Davila said.
She wondered why despite the huge budget from the national government, there was no allocation to professionalize Siargao’s trainers, establish full time first aid clinic and put in place life guards.
She also learned from one of the officers of the Siargao Island Surfers Association and Siargao Tourism Operators Association that the resorts were basically on their own, without the assistance from the local government units.
“I call on the DEPARTMENT OF TOURISM to act on Siargao right away… life guards and first aid clinics at the beach ARE A MUST. AN EVERY DAY RESPONSIBILITY. It’s time we professionalize surfing instructors as they do in other countries. Let’s stop being a backyard operation that may cost the lives of people,” she said.
Siargao is known as the surfing capital of the Philippines.