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Ermita Police chief relieved for social distancing failure at Manila Bay ‘white sand beach’ opening


The station commander of the Ermita Police in Manila has been relieved from his post, following the police's failure to maintain social distancing measures during the opening of the "white sand beach" at Manila Bay over the weekend.

In a mobile message, Manila Police District (MPD) chief Police Brigadier General Rolando Miranda confirmed that Police Lieutenant Colonel Ariel Caramoan her been removed from his post.

The Ermita Police has jurisdiction over the controversial "white sand beach" beautification project along Manila Bay.

Sought for further details, Miranda said Caramoan will be reassigned to Manila Police headquarters. The MPD chief did not elaborate.

In a statement, the Joint Task Force COVID Shield said that the decision to remove Caramoan was made by PNP chief Police General Camilo Cascolan.

The task force added that as the immediate area commander, Caramoan "should have taken the initiative in planning and implementing strict security and health safety measures for the opening" of the white sand beach.

Caramoan, it added, "could have prevented the quarantine protocol violations at the Manila Bay if there was prior planning and regular monitoring of the situation in the area.

"Clearly, he also failed to comply with the JTF COVID Shield order that was coordinated with the Chief PNP for all police commanders to monitor and immediately take action on violations of the quarantine protocols that are going viral in the social media," it added.

Crowds

The latest development comes after a number of people showed up for the opening of the Manila Bay beautification project on Saturday, failing to observe physical distancing measures amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Some were also reported to have not been wearing face shields.

The controversial "white beach" at Manila Bay is part of the P389-million beautification project of the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources.

It has been slammed by environmental groups and Vice President Maria Leonor "Leni" Robredo who tagged the project as "insensitive" and "insulting" amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire earlier said the inhalation of crushed dolomite rock can cause respiratory problems, among other health issues. The health department, however, has since backtracked and claimed otherwise.

Malacañang has repeatedly backed the government project,  claiming that this will help in flood control and prevent soil erosion, as well as improve mental health.

The Cebu provincial government has also issued a cease and desist order on two companies related in the extraction and sale of the dolomite, saying they were not informed of the project.

For his part, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said the plan to cover the Baywalk on Roxas Boulevard with synthetic white sand could be stopped, if proven that it is harmful to the public. — Jon Viktor D. Cabuenas/BM, GMA News