May 24, 2024

■  Hanna C. Lacsamana   

Due to recent incidents of drowning involving residents from the Cordillera, the Philippine Coast Guard has shared some safety reminders when the public spends time on beaches and resorts, especially this summer.

Ensign Ivhanne Rillon, acting operations officer of the PCG district of Northwestern Luzon, reported there have been a total of 20 casualties involving Cordillerans who visited lowland beaches and resorts due to drowning in a span of two years, eight of them were in 2022 and eight were recorded in 2023.

The recent incident happened last December where four residents from Benguet drowned during their Christmas outing somewhere in Region 1.

Rillon said people who are planning outings or summer vacation activities that involve water should be reminded to avoid alcohol, know responsible supervision, have basic swimming skills, practice buddy system, wear life jacket, know the risks of natural waters, and be aware of rip currents and tides.

He said it is important to avoid alcohol before or during swimming, boating, or other water activities as alcohol impairs judgment, balance and coordination. People should not drink when supervising children.

“Since many Filipinos are fond of drinking during happenings or outings, it is advised to avoid the same when before and after swimming. We all know being intoxicated makes us more daring to do things, but it impairs our judgment and balance so we think we are on shallow waters or the waves are not strong, when in fact it is not. So drinking liquor when we go swimming is dangerous,” Rillon said.

Second, supervise closely by not just designating someone to look over those going to  swimming, but it must be a responsible adult who will supervise closely and constantly, especially when children are in or near water.

Third, learn basic swimming and water safety skills.

He said having formal swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowning. Children who have had swimming lessons still need close and constant supervision when in or around water.

Mag-practice muna tayo bago lumangoy. Hindi dapat pabayaan na ang mga bata pati na ang mga adult who have basic swimming skills. They still have to be closely and constantly supervised.”

He also advised to always swim with a buddy. The buddy system is especially beneficial for people with seizure disorders or other medical conditions that increase their risk of drowning. Also, choose swimming sites that have lifeguards when possible.

Kung wala namang medical condition ang ating kasama, ang buddy system ay makakatulong kung sakaling ang kasama ay pinulikat (cramps) dahil makakahingi agad tayo ng tulong,” Rillon said.

Wearing a life jacket reduces the risk of drowning while boating or during water activities for people of all ages. It should be used by children for all activities while in and around natural water. Life jackets can also be used by weaker swimmers of all ages in and around water including swimming pools.

Rillon advised not to rely on air-filled or foam toys as these are not safety devices, and make sure to wear life jackets properly.

Another tip isknowing the risks of natural waters. Lakes, rivers, and oceans have hidden hazards such as dangerous currents or waves, rocks or vegetation, and limited visibility.

The public is advised to check the forecast before activities in, on, or near water as local weather conditions can change quickly and cause dangerous flash floods, strong winds, and thunderstorms with lighting strikes.

“Make sure to learn beforehand about the beaches or resorts that we are planning to visit, mabato, mabuhangin ba, may mga lifeguards ba, or anything na makakatulong para ma-lessen ang mga drowning incident.”

He said people should also be aware of rip currents and tides when swimming in the oceans.

He said rip currents are powerful, narrow channels of fast-moving water that can pull even the strongest swimmers out to sea. Know how to identify them and how to escape if caught in one: swim parallel to the shore until you are out of the current. Then swim back to shore. Additionally, be aware of tidal schedule and avoid swimming during high tides or when the tide is rapidly changing as this can create dangerous swimming conditions.

Sa pagkalunod, walang bata o matanda, walang hindi marunong or marunong lumangoy. Marunong man o hindi, prone ka sa drowning. Don’t be too brave because we do not know the behavior of the sea and its currents. Mag-ingat tayong lahat lalo na sa paparating na summer vacation,” Rillon said.