MANILA -- The Department of Tourism (DOT) is currently marketing the Philippines as an ideal diving hub in Asia by highlighting its numerous dive spots for beginners and professional divers who are inclined to underwater photography.

"Part of our commitment is to make sure that we promote the Philippines as a whole to the international diving community and more specifically to look at two segments that we feel we have a distinct advantage in: underwater photography and beginner divers," DOT Undersecretary Benito Bengzon Jr. said during the second day of the Diving Resort Travel Show in Ortigas Saturday.

Bengzon said he is optimistic the market for dive tourism will further grow with the year-round free diving opportunities in the country.

"We feel that we can be very competitive in this segment because all year round, there are free diving opportunities. And as in the case of mainstream diving, (we have) very rich marine life," he added.

United Kingdom-based DIVE Magazine had cited the best dive spots in the Philippines -- the Dimakya Island in Palawan; Donsol, Sorsogon; Dauin in Negros Oriental; Apo Reef in Occidental Mindoro; Puerto Galera in Mindoro; Anilao in Batangas; Malapascua in Cebu; Coron Bay in Palawan; and the Tubbataha Reef, often called the diving Mecca in the Philippines.

Aside from these popular sites, the DOT shared emerging dive spots in Samal and Talikud Island in Davao del Norte, as well as Camiguin Island in Northern Mindanao.

In an interview, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said the agency plans to strengthen the Philippine Commission on Sports Scuba Diving in a bid to market the country as an ideal dive hub in Asia.

This, while making sure policies are in place to protect all destinations being promoted in the country.

"We will make policies to make sure that everything is actually protected. Of course, you know that our overarching theme is sustainable tourism and of course, that goes with all marine resources,"
Romulo-Puyat said.

"(We have) a lot of our tourists, we have now 26 countries (nationalities) who came here just for the dive spots. I just came from Zamboanga del Norte and I'm actually surprised to see that they have really good diving destinations and there were a lot of Japanese there just to go for diving," she told reporters.

Meanwhile, as Boracay Island’s soft opening draws near, Romulo-Puyat said the interagency group has yet to discuss if diving activities would be part of the launch on October 26.

"Our last meeting with Task Force Boracay is on Sept. 28 and we will be discussing the following guidelines, one of those is diving," she added. "We will first see if diving can already be included when we open up on October 26." (PNA)