An environmental organization called out the host and tour guide of a TV program titled “My Philippines” after they entered a cave without helmets and wore “inappropriate” attire, among others.
The program is under CNN Philippines in partnership with the Department of Tourism. It aims to highlight some of the country’s unique destinations and show why they are worth discovering.
The episode, “My Philippines: Albay,” showed Miss Bicolandia 2017 Kayesha Chua visiting the Hoyop-Hoyopan Cave with her tour guide Bam Nuylaw.
According to the Philippines Biodiversity Conversation Foundation, Inc., the pair “violated provisions” listed under Republic Act 9072 or the “National Caves and Cave Resources Management and Protection Act.”
They shared screenshots of the episode and argued that Chua and Nuylaw failed to portray what they called “good practice” in visiting caves.
“The pair also portrayed what is totally not a good practice inside caves: No helmets, not appropriate clothing, disturbing the bats, touching stalagmites and stalactites with bare hands, drinking from the dripping water of the stalactite and many more,” it said.
Official mandate in cave exploration
According to RA 9072, the following acts are prohibited inside caves:
- Knowingly destroying, disturbing, defacing, marring, altering, removing, or harming the speleogem or speleothem of any cave or altering the free movement of any animal or plant life into or out of any cave;
- Gathering, collecting, possessing, consuming, selling, bartering or exchanging or offering for sale without authority any, cave resource;
- Counseling, procuring, soliciting or employing any other person to violate any provisions of this Section.
In the episode, the tour guide encouraged Chua to taste water dripping from the cave’s stalactites, stating that it’s “mineral water.”
In response, Chua bent down to taste it and cupped her hand to catch some of the dripping liquid.
Another sequence showed them briefly knocking their fists on some of the stalactites, although in a non-violent manner.
There were also instances that Nuylaw waved his flashlight to illuminate some parts of the cave for Chua’s benefit. This resulted in some of the bats flying away.
Proper code of ethics for visiting caves
A document called the “Philippine Cave Handbook” exists that was released by the Biodiversity and Management Bureau under DENR.
It has the “Minimum Impact Caving Code” that lists the code of ethics to be followed by people visiting caves.
In Palawan’s Underground River, for instance, visitors are required to wear life vests and a helmet before they enter the cave on their boat.