CDO rafting outfitters rush safety proposals

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 16 June) – Local rafting operators here rushed a set of safety measures to prevent a tragic repeat of last Friday’s boating accident that caused the death of a 26-year-old nurse from Bohol.

Mayor Oscar Moreno said local outfitters belonging to the Oro Association of Rafters managed to squeeze in their recommendation just before he made up his mind to suspend all whitewater rafting and kayaking tours along Cagayan de Oro River.

“We opted not to suspend the whitewater rafting and kayaking operations because we will study the set of recommendations,” Moreno said.

Meanwhile, the family of Aizza Calipusan Balbin brought her ashes back to her hometown in Loboc, Bohol Monday afternoon.

Balbin, a home-based nurse in Loboc town, came to Cagayan de Oro last Friday to experience the whitewater rafting adventure which Cagayan de Oro is famous for.

Nearing the end of the course, the raft carrying Balbin, her three other companions and a guide capsized after hitting a huge limestone outcropping last Friday.

All aboard fell to the rampaging water and river guides believed Balbin was sucked under a labyrinth of tunnels under the limestone outcropping.

Chisum Factura, of Kagay Journey-Whitewater and Rafting, said their river guides found the body of Balbin wedged between a crack at the bottom of the limestone outcropping.

The Cagayan de Oro City government shouldered expenses for the P35,000 cremation service at the Divine Shepherd Memorial in Bulua and the transportation expenses of the five Balbin family members who came here.

“We are saddened that she (Balbin) came here to our city to have fun and it ended in a tragedy. We are doing all we can to ease the pain of the family,” Moreno said.

Moreno said he had formed a committee to be chaired by Dorothy Pabayo, a former regional director of the Department of Tourism, to study the recommendations made by the association of whitewater rafting operators.

The Oro Association of Rafters (OAR), the trade group of the local outfitters, recommended five “unified countermeasures” they will implement to ensure the safety of the tourists.

The group recommended that an additional guide aboard another kayak will be deployed in each of the already identified dangerous sections, or “critical points” of the river.

The tour operators also agreed to reduce the rafting trip from three hours to only an hour as “extra precautionary measure.”

An extra trained guide will ride with the raft in addition to the regular guide now being practiced; and guests will now be given intensive lectures on handling and paddling techniques.

“The accident is an eye opener for the local government and the industry itself. We must come up with measures to save this industry by emphasizing on the safety of the tourists,” Moreno said.

An estimated 5,000 local tourists from all over the country arrive here every year to experience whitewater adventure thrills, making Cagayan de Oro the nation’s whitewater capital.