Siargao’s surf spot for beginners ordered temporarily closed

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 31) — Surigao del Norte’s governor has ordered the temporary closure of Jacking Horse, a surfing spot for beginners in Siargao.

Surigao del Norte Governor Sol Matugas told CNN Philippines the area is closed ‪‪starting Saturday‬‬ as the local government seeks “to check if (surfing) trainers know how to mentor.”

“There seems to be no control on who (can) mentor,” Matugas said in a phone interview, adding that some locals do it for the money.

The rest of the surfing spots will remain open to tourists, Matugas said, since there is no need for instructors in these areas.

The order comes after journalist Karen Davila posted about her “traumatic” trip in Siargao where her son got injured in a surfing lesson.

Davila in a Facebook post lamented how her son’s trainer “suddenly disappeared” after showing her husband the store where he could buy the betadine, cotton, and gauze to treat their son’s wounds.

Davila said: “I found out anybody who surfs in Siargao can train in Siargao. Some of the trainers are habal habal drivers, who train on the side for extra income. The instructors have no professional certifications. No requirement to be certified. No system of vetting trainers. Anybody with a surf board, who wants to earn P500 an hour can train.”

She said she was later told by Tourism Undersecretary Kat de Castro that the surfing instructor referred by the resort was not accredited by the department.

Davila also decried the absence of a life guard or first aid clinic in the popular surfing destination. The nearest hospital was 45 minutes away, she said.

Matugas said she had issued an executive order years back directing all mayors in Siargao Island to provide ‪‪24/7‬‬ medical assistance to the public.

The governor, however, admitted they were still unprepared for the influx of tourists.

“We never thought that everybody will go to Siargao, as if all roads lead to Siargao,” Matugas said.

Matugas has also apologized to Davila in a Facebook post.

"The Provincial Government of Surigao del Norte deeply understands and shares the sentiments of Ms KarenDavila on account of the unfortunate incident of her son sustaining bruises while having actual surfing lessons in the Municipality of General Luna. And for that very sad experience, we express our sincerest apologies to the family of Ms. Davila for the hassle and inconvenience brought about by the said incident," Matugas said.

She assured they are taking appropriate measures to prevent such incidents in the future.

Siargao is a protected area under Proclamation No. 902, signed by former President Fidel Ramos in 1996. It is home to endemic flora and fauna, including the Mindanao tarictic, Rufous hornbill, Philippine magpie-robin.

Tourism on the island has boomed in recent years as it gained fame as a premier surfing destination.