CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY—A group of professional surfers has asked the local government of General Luna, Surigao del Norte province, to ensure the safety of tourists visiting Siargao Island by strictly implementing an ordinance regulating activities related to surfing, the town’s main attraction.
The General Luna council, in August last year, passed an ordinance prescribing rules and regulations on the operation of surf schools and shops, resorts offering surf lessons, and instructors in the town.
“While the battle in creating the policy has been won, the task now is on pushing the strict implementation of this law,” said Wilmar Melindo, president of Siargao Island Surfers Association (Sisa).
“After Siargao was declared [by Conde Nast Traveler] as Asia’s best island [in 2018], we [expected] that more people would want to experience and learn surfing. Unfortunately, only a few were qualified [to become] surfing instructors,” Melindo said.
According to Sisa records, Siargao has about 200 qualified surfing instructors, with only 14 licensed to conduct training and issue certifications for those who want to become professional instructors.
The ordinance states that only Sisa members, issued with valid identification cards, are allowed to give surfing lessons. Each Sisa member should also be trained in ocean safety, first aid, basic life support, water search and rescue, and surfing instructions according to guidelines set by the International Surfing Association.
Pia Lopez, Sisa secretary, said the implementation of the guidelines should be taken seriously, “if we want to learn from the lessons of the past.”
She said when the guidelines were not in place, “anyone can teach and anyone can coach, which is much dangerous.”
Lopez cited an accident where the son of broadcast journalist Karen Davila was injured while taking surfing lessons in Siargao. Davila decried the lack of medical team or personnel qualified to administer first aid in the area during the accident.
“Somehow, the incident with Karen Davila’s son back in 2018 helped [gather] support for the creation of the guidelines and now, the town ordinance,” she said.