Wednesday, 4 April 2018

PHILIPPINES: Siargao Islands, Surfing Capital Of The Philippines, Accidents Common But No Doctors!

Popular for its surfing spots and uncrowded beaches, Siargao Island saw more foreign and local visitors during the Holy Week.

But as tourism grows, it caught the local government, villagers, and business establishments unprepared, which left them grappling with garbage problem and lack of better medical services.

The number of tourists just overwhelmed everyone. It swelled beyond what we had prepared for," said Siargao tourism coordinator Janette Pontillo.

The municipal gymnasium had to be opened for visitors who didn't have a place to stay.

Records from Caraga Regional Tourism Office showed that some 15,000 tourists visited Siargao Island in 2017, a 25 percent increase from 2016.

The tourism office has yet to release the number of visitors during this year's Holy Week.

A medical professional, who requested not to be named, raised concerns about the medical services on the island.

With the increasing number of vehicular accidents recorded in the island, he said the local government is not prepared, especially in emergency situations.

This was echoed by Roel Catoto, a surfing enthusiast and a journalist, who cited the need for first aid responders.

We’ve seen accidents in the beach, where several tourists got injured, but no emergency medical services have been set up.

This need has never been addressed properly, he said.

Karen Davila revealed traumatic experience with family in Siargao

Last week,journalist Karen Davila posted about her family's traumatic experience in Siargao Island wherein her son got injured in a surfing incident.

Davila was upset that her son's surfing instructor suddenly disappeared after supposedly showing her husband a store to buy antiseptic, cotton, and gauze.

Not only it took them some 45 minutes to seek medical help from the immediate vicinity, there was also no available medicine.

The Siargao Island Surfing Association has confirmed that the trainer was not an accredited surfing instructor.

We only have 14 instructors certified by the International Surfing Association.

All of our instructors are trained to assess risk and create contingency actions.

We are also trained to provide emergency response and first aid in case accidents would occur, said SISA president Wilmar Melindo.

Alvarez vows gov’t to address infrastructure woes in Siargao, tourist spots.

Following the incident, Surigao del Norte Governor Sol Matugas issued an executive order that requires all municipal mayors in the island to provide 24/7 medical assistance to the public and ensure a sufficient supply of medicines.

To further ensure the safety and welfare of the tourists and locals, we have organized the rescue team composed of trained personnel from the Provincial Health Office and Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office on standby along frequently visited tourist areas in the island, including Cloud 9 in General Luna.

This team will be able to provide the immediate medical response in emergency situations to augment/reinforce the existing health care personnel and doctors of the Rural Health Units in the locality, Matugas said in a statement.

Through the Municipal Government of General Luna, for all beach resort operators to help the local government and law enforcement agencies to ensure peace and order in their respective establishments by providing security officers and installing CCTV.

First aid treatment should also be required from all resort operators and tourism-related establishments, including lifeguards, especially in establishments with swimming pools or along the beach, and they are to immediately coordinate with the government rescue teams, Matugas added.

Siargao is a tear-drop shaped island in the Philippine Sea situated 800 kilometers southeast of Manila in the province of Surigao del Norte.

It has a land area of approximately 437 square kilometres (169 sq mi). The east coast is relatively straight with one deep inlet, Port Pilar.

The coastline is marked by a succession of reefs, small points and white, sandy beaches. The neighboring islands and islets have similar landforms.

The island is composed of municipalities of Burgos, Dapa, Del Carmen, General Luna, San Benito, Pilar, San Isidro, Santa Monica and Socorro.

Siargao Island contains the largest mangrove forest reserves in Mindanao, at Del Carmen.

Long stretches of wetlands indicate a potential for commercial seaweed propagation.

Siargao Island is greatly influenced by the winds and currents coming uninterrupted from the Pacific Ocean, intensified by the Mindanao current running westward through the Siargao Strait.

Offshore, a classic tropical island lies protected within its surrounding coral reef with dozens of coconut palms dressed in the center circle of the island.

Off to the right, well within the massive coastal reef, lies a shining white sand bar, Pansukian, or Naked island some 200 meters long.

The tide of Siargao is diurnal with tidal curves typically present, especially on the east coast of the island.

The island's Pacific-facing reefs are situated on the edge of the Philippine Trench, and the extremely deep offshore waters assure the ocean swells have undiluted power when they encounter the many coral and rock reefs.

Siargao has excellent surfing conditions, particularly during the southwest habagat monsoon from August to November, when the prevailing wind is offshore.

There is also a small island near Siargao called Guyam Island. It is uninhabited and has become a popular stop for tourists doing island-hopping tours.

The most popular tour includes a stop at Guyam, Naked Island an exposed sandbar with not much else, and Dako Island.

The extensive mangrove forests of the western coast in the Del Carmen area are home to the Indo-Pacific saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus). A large specimen measuring 14 feet, 9 inches (4.5 meters) was found dead in 2016

In the past, Siargao Is. could be reached via a direct domestic flight from Manila to Surigao City and then by a ferry to the coastal towns of Dapa or Del Carmen in Siargao Islands.

Now, Cebu Pacific has flights from Cebu-Siargao, vv as well as a direct Manila-Siargao route, it stops briefly in Cebu and passengers then switch to a smaller aircraft.

There are plans to extend the runway of Sayak Airport in Siargao, to cater to the demands of growing tourists who will be visiting this island paradise.

In March 2017, both Cebu Pacific and SkyJet airlines commenced direct flights to Sayak Airport (SOS) Siargao island from Manila Airport (MNL), the first direct flights to the island from the capital.

One of the well-known surfing waves on Siargao and the Philippines, with a reputation for thick, hollow tubes is Cloud 9.

This right-breaking reef wave is the site of the annual Siargao Cup, a domestic and international surfing competition sponsored by the provincial government of Surigao del Norte.

The wave was discovered by traveling surfers in the late 1980s. It was named by American photographer John Seaton Callahan after a chocolate bar of same name and was featured in the United States-based Surfer magazine in March 1993.

This surf trip to Siargao Island was named by Surfer as one of the Ten Best Surf Trips of All Time in 1995. Cloud 9 also has a reputation for being a relatively cheap destination for surfers with many accommodations, restaurants and bars to choose from.

The island of Siargao was a hideout for convicted American drug smuggler and surfing entrepreneur Mike Boyum, who arrived on the island in late December 1988 and who died on Siargao from a 44-day spiritual cleansing fast in April 1989.

There are several other quality waves on Siargao and nearby islands, but Cloud 9 has received more publicity than any other surf spot in the Philippines.

While it is not the only wave in the Tuason Point and General Luna areas easily accessible via the long pier from the shoreline and without the need for a boat, it is easily the most popular, leading to overcrowding and the nickname of Crowd 9 among surfers.

Eager foreign and locally owned accommodation and tourist facilities have profited from the magazine publicity and the influx of visitors drawn by the annual Siargao Cup competition in September and the General Luna area currently has nearly 100 accommodation options for visitors.

A short motorbike ride outside of town yields even more lodgings, restaurants and bars.

Siargao, particularly the municipality of General Luna and the Tuason Point area, is well known as The Surfing Capital of the Philippines with a reputation among surfers within the Philippines and the International scene.

Eddie Florano has also written a song called "Surfin' in Siargao" from the 2006 Ukulele World: Acoustic & Power Ukulele compilation album.

Red Hot Chili Peppers' front man Anthony Kiedis was also inspired to write a song after his 2014 visit to the island.

Tourism Observer
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