Published on: Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Kota Kinabalu: The Government is considering setting up a consultative council to look into issues related to the diving industry in the State and how to improve it.
According to Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun, the proposal to set up the council was aimed at how to make the industry operate better.
He said the proposal was also to ensure that Sabah or the dive industry here continues to enforce stringent measures on the quality of divers, including foreign divers and dive masters who may want to work in the State.
Masidi said they have agreed, in order to better facilitate supervision of the industry, to join the public and private sectors to set up a body which they would like to call a council where they have tasked the Permanent Secretary to get ready a draft of it so that it can be presented to the Cabinet.
"Once the draft is completed, we will then call members of the industry to sit down and look at the draft. The whole idea is that we want to make sure, since we are talking about a smart partnership between the public and private sectors, that everyone is comfortable with the draft.
"The function of the council is to coordinate various issues related to the diving industry and to make sure that there is closer cooperation between the industry and the Government. More importantly, if and when there is a need for various resort operators to hire foreign divers and that these divers comply with the various regulatory requirements and professionalism and expertise that will be determined by the council through the associations."
He said this to reporters after a courtesy call by Semporna Resort Operators Association President, Robert Lo, and entourage at his office in Wisma Tun Fuad Stephens, here, Monday.
Masidi said they have also discussed putting forth the idea that all the dive industry associations become members of this council for the good of the industry.
"This is so that the industry is better regulated for their own sustainability for future. Eventually we would also like the council to be a one-stop centre for the State to recommend or reject new licences for operating new dive centres to maintain some semblance of quality of service for the sustainability of the industry."
Masidi said the associations have also informed him about the shortage of Chinese speaking dive masters and claim it is affecting their business.
"Hence, they are proposing to take in dive masters from China.
That also is why we need to set up this council to determine the sort of professionalism and conditions that will allow the employment of foreign dive masters.
It must comply with conditions to be set up by Sabah to ensure quality.
We are not just talking about numbers but numbers with quality."
Lastly, Masidi said he also hoped that more locals would be willing to take up training to be dive masters.
"I heard that not many locals want to stay on islands to be dive masters.
I think we should not be worried if security is the concern.
But I think it is more about the tough job of being a dive master, which is not easy. You will be in the water most of the time and not many people are willing to be in the water most of the time unfortunately but I was informed the pay is also good."
He said the industry will meet again and if and when the council is set up, he felt there will be a consultative meeting every three months.
"We are taking this course because we believe we are doing well at this moment and when you are doing well you want to ensure the sustainability of the industry. And it is also the more reason for it to be conducted well and the industry is looked after and well regulated."
He said the operators have also agreed that Sabah is the destination of choice for diving in this part of the world and to maintain these attractions, the only way forward is to make themselves better, hence the setting up of the council.