The Philippines is known for having the highest number of both discovered and unexplored dive sites in Asia. And owing to its rich naval history, the country has become a favorite destination for its many famous wreck sites. The country offers some of the best wreck dive sites in Asia, which include sunken war and trade vessels used by the Spanish, Chinese, Japanese and Americans who at some time navigated through Philippine waters.
There are at least 25 identified shipwreck dive sites in the Philippines, although more have been discovered recently while others remain unexplored. Most of the country’s popular wreck diving sites can be found in Subic Bay Freeport in Olongapo, some 160 kms from the Philippine capital of Manila. Both experienced and novice divers continue to be lured to this former naval facility with its magnificent vistas, easy amenities, and of course, the wreck sites. Subic holds the prestige of being considered having the best wreck dive sites in Asia.
A historical naval base dating as far back as the Spanish Colonial Period and subsequently under the Americans until 1990, sunken battleships and other war vessels can be found lying across Subic’s sea bed. One such vessel frequented by divers is the Ex-USS New York. A perfectly preserved 1899 American dreadnought, this battleship was deliberately scuttled to prevent the Japanese from commandeering her 17-inch guns in the Second World War.
Another famous wreck site is that of the Oryoku Maru, a vessel of the Japanese occupation forces. The vessel has gained the moniker, “Hell Ship,” for causing the deaths of thousands of American prisoners of war and their families when it sunk in 1945.
Meanwhile, the wreckage of the Spanish gunboat San Quentin is considered the oldest among the sunken vessels in Subic, dating back to the Spanish-American War at the turn of the 20th century. A veritable symbol of the Spanish Galleon era, the San Quentin was sunk in 1898 as a last ditch effort to prevent US Naval forces from gaining access to the strategic channel passing through the islands of Grande and Chiquita. Easily one of the most popular wreck dive sites in the Philippines, the San Quentin continues to draw many divers because of its historical significance.
The stretch of over 35,000 kilometers of coastline that open up to the major waters of South East Asia has naturally endowed the Philippines with some of the best diving destinations in the region. The Philippines’ Department of Tourism has even dubbed the country as “Asia’s Dive Capital,” with more than 40,000 sq. kms of coral reefs providing shelter to a vibrant and varied marine ecosystem. Wreck sites in the Philippines are undoubtedly the main attractions, the very centerpiece which draws people to visit and revisit Asia’s Diving Capital.