(DOT Philippines poster)

MANILA – The Department of Tourism (DOT) on Friday launched the country's largest dive expo in time for the gradual activation of dive tourism in various Philippine destinations and abroad.

The virtual edition of the Philippine International Dive Expo (PHIDEX) this year aims to raise awareness and discuss solutions to accelerate the industry’s recovery for the new normal.

“As the Philippines is known around the world for its diving destinations, it is truly important that we do everything we can to sustain the local diving industry," Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said in a speech.

"This year’s PHIDEX is a step in the right direction to sustain our gains toward recovery, for all to enjoy the natural wonders our archipelago can provide,” she added.

This year’s PHIDEX will host discussions and talks by a number of experts when it comes to the sea, including California Academy of Sciences Curator Dr. Terry Gosliner, French-British underwater photographer Henley Spiers, and Emmy Award-winning husband-and-wife documentary team Howard and Michele Hall, PADI Ambassador and PCSSD Commissioner Bo Mancao, University of the Philippines marine economist Tara Abrina, and German underwater photographer Tobias Friedrich, to name a few.

The event's website https://phidex.asia will also serve as a space for divers and enthusiasts to purchase experiences and equipment from partners and exhibitors.

The Philippines is known for its breath-taking dive spots spread across different regions, including Anilao in Batangas; Panglao, Balicasag and Cabilao in Bohol; Moalboal and Malapascua in Cebu, Coron and Tubbataha in Palawan, Dauin in Negros Oriental; Sipalay in Negros Occidental; Camiguin and Misamis Oriental; Davao; Donsol in Sorsogon; and Ticao Island in Masbate.

While the industry is still reeling from the effects of the health crisis, Tourism Undersecretary Benito Bengzon Jr. is optimistic dive tourism would bounce back.

"I think one thing that we witnessed is that the pandemic has compelled many destinations to reboot or press the reset button and many of them are rethinking their development approaches with respect to tourism," he said in a press briefing.

"I think there's a consensus that the destinations will go for the low impact, low density but high-value kind of tourism which is actually good for the Philippines because then we'll be able to put a premium on our natural assets," he added.

As early as Oct. 2020, Romulo-Puyat said dozens of dive shops have already reopened in the Philippines, now equipped with proper health and safety protocols to prevent the spread of Covid-19 when catering to recreational divers.

"Since we've started slow but sure reopening of tourism destinations, [there had been] no outbreak of Covid because of tourism. Not because of tourism," she said.

Despite this, she reiterated the government's call on the public to remain "cautious" and to strictly follow the minimum health standards at all times. (PNA)