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Malapascua Island to have decompression chamber soon
By: Lianne Llesol | Published Thursday, November 26, 2020
Malapascua Island, a popular diving spot in Cebu, will soon have a decompression chamber for immediate medical response for divers and local fishermen in times of accidents and emergencies. (Tonee Despojo)

Malapascua Island in Daanbantayan, northern Cebu will soon have a decompression chamber that will ensure immediate medical response for divers and local fishermen in case of accidents and emergencies.

Daanbantayan Mayor Sun Shimura revealed this during the tourism stakeholders meeting in Malapascua Island Sunday, November 22 where Governor Gwendolyn Garcia announced the reopening of the island’s tourism industry. 

Malapascua Island is one of Cebu Province’s top tourist destinations especially for local and international divers and diving enthusiasts who wish to visit the thresher sharks in Monad Shoal and Gato Island as well as the other rich marine life in the area.

Shimura admitted that the absence of a decompression chamber has been a struggle for them as there are high tendencies of decompression sickness among divers, particularly the new ones.

A decompression chamber is a sealed chamber wherein high pressure environment is used to treat decompression sickness of divers, among many others.

Decompression sickness happens when nitrogen from a diver’s tank form bubbles in the tissues and bloodstream causing tingling sensation, numbness, and eventually, paralysis.

He shared that Governor Garcia committed to allocate funds for the chamber which costs around P9 million to P12 million from the 2021 budget of the Province of Cebu.

The mayor assured the governor that this is possible as Malapascua Island already has a clinic from the Department of Health and the newly inaugurated multi-purpose building which can be utilized as rooms for in-patients.

He also promised to provide a medical doctor trained to operate the decompression chamber that will be given a permanent position in the municipal government of Malapascua. 

This is in addition to the doctor that has been visiting the island three times a week, which he hopes to be present in the island everyday starting December. 

Roberto Bercero Pipo, one of the dive masters in Malapascua, expressed relief since a decompression chamber in the island would be of great help to local dive masters and diving tourists who are always exposed to this risk whenever at sea.

“Bisag unsa ka safety, muabot gyud ang time na naa’y too much nitrogen in the body. If maigo ka ana, kinahanglan pa nga i-adto sa Cebu City. If naa na ang chamber diri sa isla, dako ang chance na maluwas ang diver,” he said.

He added that this will boost the confidence of local divers and assure tourists that Malapascua is a safe diving area in the country.

Malapascua Dive Guides and Boat Crew Association President Dennis Bryan Bait-it also hoped for the decompression chamber to push through especially now that the island’s tourism has been finally reopened. 

He assured Garcia and the Provincial Tourism Task Force that the dive guides of Malapascua will be the “first soldiers” in the implementation of the Executive Order No. 20-A which establishes the tourism protocols and guidelines.

Marker buoys

Aside from the chamber, Shimura also announced that the local government of Daanbantayan, with the help of local divers, has successfully installed nine marker buoys and mooring blocks in Malapascua’s 16 diving sites.

The buoys worth P2.8 million was sourced from their realigned 2019 budget and the remaining seven buoys will be taken from their 2021 budget, he said. 

The mayor said the buoys have mooring blocks where boat operators can secure their boats while tourists are diving without the need of dropping the anchors to the seafloor that might damage the coral reefs below.

He added that information on the specific dive spots can be seen in the buoys and there is also light which can help guide boats navigate at night. (Lianne Llesol)