While summer is approaching fast, Senator Win Gatchalian is pushing for his proposal to have at least one lifeguard in all public swimming pools.
Under Senate Bill No. 1142 or the Lifeguard Act of 2022, Gatchalian proposes that each public swimming pool shall employ at least one certified lifeguard, or an expert swimmer trained in lifesaving techniques, during the entire duration of a pool’s operations. The proposed measure also provides that a pool operator shall hire one more lifeguard for every additional 250 square meters of pool area.
Citing data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), the Department of Health (DOH) reported that between 2006 to 2013, an average of 3,276 deaths annually are due to accidental drowning and submersion. Between 1963 to 2003, 36.5% of all drowning deaths in the Philippines occurred among children under the age of 14.
The World Health Organization (WHO) says the drowning rate in a low- and middle-income country like the Philippines is six times higher than in high-income countries, with rates of 7.8% and 1.2%, respectively. Drowning is a public health challenge, Gatchalian said.
“Maaari nating maiwasan ang mga pagkamatay na dulot ng pagkalunod kung titiyakin nating ligtas at may lifeguard ang bawat public swimming pool sa bansa. Mahalagang maisabatas natin ito, lalo na’t mga bata ang apat sa 10 namamatay dahil sa pagkalunod,” said Gatchalian.
Gatchalian’s proposal also identifies responsibilities of pool operators, local government units (LGU) and lifeguards themselves. A pool operator, for instance, shall provide the LGU with a certification and supporting documents to prove that the lifeguards are duly certified by any nationally recognized organization accredited by the DOH.
When the proposed measure is enacted into law, LGUs will be mandated to ensure the compliance of all public swimming pools through periodic local inspections coordinated by local health officers. LGUs cannot approve or renew a public pool’s operating permit unless it has verified certifications and supporting documents required.
In the event of serious injury or death in a public swimming pool, the pool operator who fails to employ the required number of lifeguards shall be imprisoned for not more than six months and shall pay a fine of P200,000, without prejudice to other criminal, civil, or administrative liabilities.
The lifeguard on duty who fails to protect a person from injury or death because of gross negligence or imprudence shall be imprisoned for not more than one year and shall pay a fine of P200,000. On the other hand, LGU officials responsible for the inspection of public swimming schools shall be held administratively liable if they omit or neglect to fulfill their duty.