PADI divers come from all around the world and from many different walks of life. Amid the uncertainty that we are all facing right now during the COVID-19 pandemic it is incredible to see how some individuals become shining examples for others, despite facing hardships of their own.
PADI Master Instructor Jun Betinol, who is also known as Lieutenant Colonel Jun Betinol in the Philippines Army, is one such individual who has not lost his drive and determination during COVID19 pandemic. LTC Betinol has gone literally beyond the call of duty to help maintain the physical and mental wellbeing of other front liners in the Philippines armed forces who are fighting the war against the spread of COVID-19.
Lieutenant Colonel Betinol has been working for the last couple of years to try and ensure that all diving personnel in the army are certified with PADI. He is no stranger to diver safety and has been involved in rescue missions, including attending after a boat that sank off Cebu Island.
During the COVID-19 pandemic he offered the gift of free PADI Open Water Diver courses to the officers, men and women of the 7th Regional Community Defense Group of the Army Reserve Command. The group was headed by Group Commander Colonel Ricky Bunayog under the umbrella of Visayas Central Command Commander LTGeneral Roberto Ancan, who was also a PADI Divemaster candidate. LTC Betinol said that he gave the course as his way of “sharing the skills and knowledge to members of the AFP that has become my advocacy since I became an instructor in 2012. With the pandemic, this is also my humble way of thanking the soldiers who also served as front liners.
The men and women were able to take their Open Water Diver courses back to back with the Army Disaster Response and Water Search and Retrieval Operations Training held on June 1st to 9th. During the training, nine men were certified as PADI Open Water Divers, two received Advanced Open Water Diver certifications and one was certified as a PADI Divemaster.
The PADI training that Lieutenant Colonel Betinol provided to the men and women will be put to good use as the first part of the Armed Forces’ Disaster Preparedness, Tourism Booster and Recovery Program following COVID19. The program in total will be conducted over 2 years, with the goal of equipping the personnel in response to disaster, tourism boosting programs that includes; Dive site exploration & identification, Coral reef establishment, rehabilitation and conservation.
LTC Jun explained that there are many ways in which PADI training will help the Philippines’ armed forces personnel in the performance of their duties, “The Philippines is an archipelagic country having more than 7,000 islands, it is just wise that our Armed Forces is equipped with training and knowledge in all water skills, surface and underwater to better serve our people. With PADI standards strictly implemented, our men in uniform practically is safe and secured whether they dive for fun or saving lives or protecting the seas”.
A Philippines Army official statement commented that it, “recognizes PADI as a prestigious and world’s no. 1 diving organization … not only for the development of the local diving industry, scuba gear market, marine life protection and preservation but for the successful showcase and encouragement to the local community on how PADI professionals train divers and conduct significant programs for the care of the aquatic life”.
LTC Jun also added, “Every class that I handle with my fellow uniformed forces makes me fulfill my mission, every thankful diver I produce gives me a satisfaction that somehow in my own little contribution, I help my country become more secured with more trained personnel in the armed forces ready to respond in emergency situations and that we Filipino soldiers are not only combat proven but we can also be partners for ecological protection and preservation thereby enhancing the country’s economic and tourism entities”.
When asked about his plans for the future, the Lieutenant Colonel said, ‘I only aspire to have more soldiers trained and influence them to share the same advocacy that I adhere before I retire from the service in a year or two maybe. Id like to imprint a legacy to the Armed Forces that I do not only serve as a combat officer but also a lover of the environment and that my advocacy to protect our oceans will become an inspiration for others and my family’s pride and honor. After the PADI training of our soldiers, they can already be counterparts of their local governments in various projects and for me, id like to upgrade my professional level as a gift to myself right after my retirement’.