Malacanang’s appeal to the public not to bring their children to Manila’s man-made dolomite beach on Roxas Blvd. amid the COVID-19 should be immediately heeded.
At the same time, we call on law enforcement authorities to stop adults from setting foot on the bay stretch when they have their children with them.
Are they defying what Malacanang previously issued as a guideline that minors or those aged 17 and below are not yet allowed to visit the Manila Bay dolomite beach amid the pandemic?
We saw pictures of thousands – 65,000 by police estimates – of adults, children included and some on their fathers’ shoulders, during an obviously unchecked gathering at the Manila Bay dolomite beach last Sunday after the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases eased the pandemic restrictions.
Very sad and detestable sight. Which showed the Filipinos – at least some in their thousands – are still lacking in discipline, despite the warning against complacency in the midst of the scything health emergency.
The Department of Health also confirmed there was overcrowding in Manila Bay’s dolomite beach over the weekend and was in violation of rules set by the Task Force against COVID-19.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque had appealed to the public to not bring their kids to Manila’s man-made dolomite beach, saying children are still not allowed to leave their homes unless for essential purposes.
“First of all, children are only allowed outside for essential activities, so they cannot really move out for leisurely trips and for travel,” he said, while reminding the public that the country was still under a pandemic, even if the daily cases had started decreasing, COVID-19 was still present and the people should not be complacent.
As of Monday last, the Philippines logged nearly 2.8 million confirmed cases with 4,405 new cases and almost 42,000 deaths, besides 2.6 million recovered cases.
“The dolomite beach is for everyone’s enjoyment but it should not be a reason to have a super-spreader event,” Roque said.
At this point, we cannot understand the Department of Environment and Natural Resources which stood firm on its ground not to close the Manila Bay dolomite beach despite overcrowding amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In an interview over Super Radyo dzBB, Undersecretary Benny Antiporda said it would be unfair for the public to prohibit the people to see and enjoy the artificial white sand area of Manila Bay.
“We cannot just do that (to order the closure). If we have spent that big just to close it, I don’t think it will be fair to the Filipino people,” he said. What logic Antiporda has shown.
“The dolomite beach was opened to relieve the anxiety of the people amid the pandemic, but we will not permit a super spreader. We are recalibrating our system to ensure the safety of our people. We are doing our best to satisfy everybody,” he noted.
Roque reiterated the government’s COVID-19 battle cry “Mask, Hugas, Iwas” which urges the public to always wear a face mask, wash their hands properly, and practice physical distancing.
Were the basic health protocols practiced at the dolomite beach on Sunday? The pictures suggest to us otherwise, and Antiporda wants the people to enjoy the sand area because of the big amount poured into setting it up for the people to enjoy – and never mind if that is taunting the unseen coronavirus.
Here, we shake our head that police apparently failed to ensure that the Sunday gathering would practice health protocols life physical distancing.
That does not absolve the thinking adults of any judgment lapse. If there as, it only showed their core values in life, their blatant disregard of life that could cut down any member of their respective families.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, in an interview with reporters, said: “The IATF has designated protocols on what should be reopened. Under Alert Level 3, outdoor capacity must be at 50 percent. What we saw over the weekend was not 50 percent.”
“Agencies have the responsibility to prevent these mass gatherings or else we would revert to restrictions and all of us don’t want that,” Vergeire said.
Vergeire urged the public to avoid crowded areas and reminded authorities to enforce minimum health standards.
“If we can’t implement them, let’s regulate them. Let’s change the process but we have to cooperate in order to prevent an increase in cases here in NCR and even other parts of the country,” Vergeire said.
Aside from avoiding overcrowded areas, families are urged to “maintain their bubbles,” wear masks, observe physical distancing and conduct their gatherings outdoors, Vergeire said.
“It’s up to us if we will go back to tight restrictions and increasing virus cases and hospitalization,” Vergeire added.
Environment officials stressed the beach nourishment project was a significant phase of the Manila Bay rehabilitation program upon the issuance of a writ of continuing mandamus by the Supreme Court, which in 2008 directed DENR and all other government agencies to clean, rehabilitate and preserve Manila Bay.
The government spent P389 million for rehabilitation.
According to Antiporda, authorities have modified the guidelines to only allow a batch of people to stay in the area for five minutes, after which they must leave the place to enable the others to enter.
He said DENR and the Manila City government have fielded more marshals to ensure that the minimum health protocols are being strictly observed. The pictures we saw suggest otherwise.
In the meanwhile, Philippine National Police chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar ordered the Manila Police District to closely coordinate with DENR and the Manila City government in limiting the number of visitors at the Manila Bay dolomite beach and length of stay.
“My order includes continued cooperation with the local government to have a proper system, especially in bringing in children that we saw in the video and in the photos that posted on social media,” Eleazar said in a statement.
While he understands the excitement of people to go out following the easing of restrictions, Eleazar said this was not a reason for them to be complacent as the threat of coronavirus lingers.
“This is not a reason to disregard the safety of everyone, especially the children they have included so it is clear in the policy that they cannot come out under the COVID Alert. Level 3 status,” he added.
On Sunday, authorities temporarily stopped the entry of visitors to the area when the crowd reached 4,000.
“Our safety also depends on our self -discipline so the police will help to remind you of this because you may add to the upcoming Undas if you continue to ignore the rules for your safety in the midst of a pandemic,” said Eleazar.
We truly need to be safe. And adults, who would not be losing anything by staying home with their children, should hear and listen to the warning bells. (ai/mtvn)