The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Monday said that it has done its part to remind the people who flocked to the "white sand beach" it created to observe social distancing.
Interviewed on Dobol B sa News TV, DENR Undersecretary Benny Antiporda said that social distancing was actually observed when people actually got onto the white sand beach.
“Doon po sa area of jurisdiction natin doon sa white sand area, talagang na-implement ang social distancing,” Anriporda said.
“Nagpapasalamat po kami sa mga pulis sa local government. Binigyan kami ng suporta. But sad to say, talagang napakaraming pasaway,” he added.
On Saturday, the crowd that showed up for the opening of the Manila Bay Sands failed to observe physical distancing. Many were also not wearing face shields.
While personnel were on site to remind visitors to maintain their distance, people were still seen huddled close together while falling in line outside to get a peek into the newly constructed beach.
Social distancing was also not observed on the foot bridge just outside the beach.
On Sunday, social distancing remained a challenge since people stood close to each other in line. Traffic also slowed as the crowds occupied up to two lanes of Roxas Boulevard.
Ermita Police station commander Police Lieutenant Colonel Ariel Caramoan has been relieved from his post as a result.
“Masakit po sa amin 'yun dahil in fairness sa PNP ng Station 5, nagpadala po sila ng mga pulis nila para tumulong. But sad to say, it is not enough. Ang dami po talagang pasaway,” Antiporda said.
Antiporda said that the project is not yet complete, but that the DENR opened the spot to the public so that people can make their own assessment of it amid the criticism it received.
Fisherfolk and environmental groups have assailed the project , while Buhay party-list Representative Lito Atienza called it "worthless" and a "complete waste of public funds."
An official from Cebu, where the crushed dolomite rocks were sourced, said that the provincial board was "left in the dark" as to where the material would be used.
on September 10, just days before the beach was opened to the public, the DENR ordered another study on the safety of crushed dolomite rocks.
Closed to the public
The DENR said the Manila Bay “white sand” beach will remain closed to the public until the completion of the Manila Bay Beach Nourishment Project.
The dolomite beach was closed off to the public starting on Monday.
“Hindi muna puwede dahil nandiyan yung heavy equipment. To avoid naman any untoward incident,” Antiporda told GMA News.
During the project’s first phase, around 7,200 square meters of the Manila Beachfront was covered with crushed dolomites, which is only 24 percent of the 30,000-square meter project.
Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Antiporda could not say when the project is expected to be completed. But he said the department hopes to finish it within the year. — BM, GMA News