MANILA, Philippines — Several prestigious foreign travel publications like Travel + Leisure Magazine have reaffirmed the Philippines’ fame as having some of the best beaches in the world.
However, lifeguards manning those beaches have not been accredited in compliance with the law.
More than two years after Republic Act No. 9993, or the “Philippine Coast Guard Act of 2009? was signed into law, not a single lifeguard in the country has been certified by the PCG as required by the new PCG law.
When contacted, Lt. Cmdr. Armand Balilo, PCG spokesman, acknowledged that RA 9993 “mandates the Coast Guard to regulate safety in beaches nationwide,” through the issuance of lifeguard certificates, among other functions.
However, Balilo admitted that PCG, a Department of Transportation and Communications-attached agency, “is “still finalizing the guidelines covering the issuance of lifeguard certificates.”
Vice Admiral Edmund Tan, the PCG commandant, “has instructed concerned agency personnel to finalize the regulations as soon as possible. Once finalized, the Coast Guard will start issuing lifeguard certificates.”
The PCG head has ordered a study on the country’s lifeguards and other lifesaving-related personnel in the tourist industry, according to Balilo.
Under RA 9993?s implementing rules and regulations, the PCG Lifeguard Certificate is tasked to “set the national policy guidelines and requirements for coastal and beach resorts, including vessels with pool facilities, in the promotion of security, water safety, lifesaving and lifeguarding of the beach-going public.”
The PCG is also mandated to “set the national criteria and standards for competency and training of lifeguards on coastal and beach resorts and in vessels with swimming pools.”
“A PCG lifeguard certificate, which is renewable every two years, will be issued to qualified lifeguards,” according to the new PCG law, which also requires all beach resorts to “provide the services of a sufficient number of lifeguards duly trained by PNRC or other PCG-accredited organizations and certified by the PCG.”
Boracay, which topped Travel + Leizure Magazine’s 2012 World’s Best Awards, has reportedly “made a real effort to make sure that all who stay on the island are safe whilst enjoying the paradise of the beaches by bringing in a 17-man team of qualified lifeguards.”
The tourist destination, located in Malay town, Aklan, “has provided the lifeguards with whistles, radios and buoyancy aides,” the report also said.
In April, a proposed Mandaue City, Cebu ordinance required all beach resorts, as well as other tourist establishments with swimming pools, to employ lifeguards to protect swimmers.
Operators who fail to hire lifeguards in their beaches or pools will be penalized with fines ranging from P1,000 to P5,000 or be face jail terms of 45 days, or both fine and imprisonment upon the court’s discretion, the same proposed ordinance states.
Sometime in February 2010, then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed into law RA 9993, which aims to further enhance maritime safety and prevent sea tragedies in the country.
RA 9993 gave the Coast Guard increased law enforcement powers, including the authority to detain and prevent from sailing substandard passenger and cargo vessels plying Philippine waters.
Eight years in the legislative mill, the new law strengthens the arm of the agency to issue and enforce rules and regulations covering the promotion of safety of life and property at sea and on all maritime-related activities, including those at beach resorts and other tourist establishments, as well promote maritime environmental protection.
The new law also formalized the Coast Guard’s status as a DOTC-attached agency, but with the provision that it would be placed under the Department of National Defense “in times of war” with the approval of Congress.
Under RA 9993, the Coast Guard is also empowered to “address both traditional and non-traditional challenges, including but not limited to the effects of climate change, natural disasters and other activities that subscribe to the humanitarian case of saving lives, whether during sea disasters, incidents of piracy, terrorism and other unforeseen circumstances that subject lives and properties to unnecessary risks or danger.”