MANILA, Philippines – The challenges of the global COVID-19 pandemic could not stop diving enthusiasts and industry experts from gathering at the first all-digital Philippine International Diving Expo (PHIDEX) organized by the Department of Tourism (DOT) on March 19-21 through virtual conferences.
More than 2,000 diving enthusiasts from all over the world attended this year’s iteration of the Philippines’ biggest platform for the diving community, which was established in 2019. This year’s event, themed “Our Sea, Our Story,” brought everyone together to raise awareness and discuss solutions for the recovery of the local diving industry.
“With the gradual activation of dive travel and tourism in various parts of the country, an event like this is even more crucial to the recovery of the dive industry,” said DOT Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat in her opening remarks on the first day of the expo.
“Given that the Philippines is widely recognized by scientists as the center of marine biodiversity, it is fitting that we lead the region in staging an event that reflects our world-class diving.”
Several international leaders and experts in their respective fields spoke at 17 different panel discussions and talk sessions at the three-day expo, with about 100 attendees at each session. Among them, Dr. Terry Gosliner, curator of the California Academy of Sciences, Franco-British underwater photographer Henley Spiers, Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaking team Howard and Michele Hall, Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) ambassador and Philippine Commission on Sport Diving (PCSSD) commissioner Bo Mancao, University of the Philippines marine economist and community scientist Tara Abrina, and German underwater photographer Tobias Friedrich, to name just a few.
PHIDEX’s main goal is to advocate for the sustainability of the local diving industry and marine environments, with a series of keynote sessions on the topic.
One was the talk of Sulubaaï Environmental Foundation president Frederic Tardieu, in which he addressed the management of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and ecosystem restoration. Tardieu and project director Laure Thierry de Ville D’avray explained in detail their work in creating 150 hectares of MPAs around the island of Pangatalan in Palawan and sharing these efforts and knowledge with the local population.
Another session was by Atlantis Dive Resorts and Liveaboards sales director Roni Ben-Aharon on sustainable tourism practices in the dive industry. Ben-Aharon focused on three important factors of sustainability: the environment, the people affected and the communities operating in the area. He shared easy-to-implement measures that local people can take to help protect the marine environment, citing cases from different parts of the Philippines.
A third talk was by Philippine Commission on Sport Diving (PCSSD) Commissioner and PADI Ambassador Bo Mancao, in which he talked about the environmental efforts of the local diving industry during the pandemic-induced shutdown and the problems that arose because of it. Mancao shared stories of coastal cleanups and preservation campaigns around Cebu, and also shed light on the resilience of Malapascua Island residents.
Show attendees also had the opportunity to get exclusive PHIDEX deals on dive equipment, accessories and travel experiences from the 64 exhibitors, distributors and partners present in the event’s virtual exhibition. Dive Travel Exchange (TRAVEX) meetings generated more than 2,000 business and networking contacts.
“With health and safety protocols in place to ensure the safe reopening of our destinations, we took this opportunity to pivot towards sustainable solutions,” stressed Puyat.
For more information and updates on PHIDEX and the Philippine dive industry, hit “Dive Philippines” on Facebook at facebook.com/DOTdivephilippines, follow @dotdivephilippines on Instagram or visit www.phidex.asia.
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