Lack of physical distancing among Manila Bay 'white sand beach' visitors alarms DOH
People were seen crowding on a footbridge to see and visit the stretch of Manila Bay's shore covered with crushed dolomite rocks on September 20, 2020.
The STAR/Edd Gumban
Lack of physical distancing among Manila Bay 'white sand beach' visitors alarms DOH
Gaea Katreena Cabico ( - September 21, 2020 - 12:41pm

MANILA, Philippines — The failure to follow physical distancing rules during the opening of the artificial white sand beach along Manila Bay over the weekend alarmed the Department of Health as it reminded the public to continuously practice minimum health standards.

People had been flocking to the stretch of the baywalk covered with crushed dolomite rocks since Saturday, when it was opened to the public until the early evening of Sunday. Photos and videos of the event showed people crowding and not practicing physical distancing despite efforts to limit the people inside the beach area.

“Ito ay isang nakakabahalang sitwasyon. Alam nating lahat na di pa nawawala ang virus dito sa atin,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in a media forum Monday.

(This is a worrying situation. We know that the virus is still around.)

Vergeire stressed the need for the proper implementation of health protocols that are necessary in slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“Kailangan pa rin nating i-enforce ang minimum health standards. Kailangan nating mapalalahan ang ating mga kababayan na ito ay isang delikadong situation dahil maaaring magkaroon ng pagkakahawa-hawa ng mga mamamayan na pumupunta dyan na di pinapatupad nang maiigi ang minimum health standards,” she said.

(We need to enforce minimum health standards. We need to remind the people that it is a dangerous situation because there might be transmission of the virus if minimum health standards are not strictly implemented.)

The event resulted in the relief of Police Lt. Col. Ariel Caramoan, the commander of Manila Police District Police Station 5.

The Joint Task Force COVID Shield said in a statement Sunday that Caramoan “could have prevented the quarantine protocol violations at the Manila Bay if there was prior planning and regular monitoring of the situation in the areas.”

“I saw yesterday there was this action that the Philippine National Police were requested to mobilize more of their cadres so that they can strictly enforce minimum health standards in this area. Also, there was this move to coordinate with the City of Manila,” Vergeire said, adding that the incident may be discussed in the meeting of the government’s inter-agency task force.

The “beach nourishment” project—which includes the artificial white sand beach—is part of the efforts to rehabilitate Manila Bay, government officials said. Environmental groups criticize the project for being costly and for being potentially harmful to communities and marine ecosystem.

The DOH has so far reported 286,743 cases of COVID-19 in the country, with most of the infections coming from outbreak epicenter Metro Manila.

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: September 29, 2020 - 12:39pm

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources orders the closure of Aristocrat restaurant in Roxas Boulevard for "generating and discharging pollutive wastewater" amid the government's move to rehabilitate Manila Bay.

The Manila Bay rehabilitation program involves cleanup activities, relocation of illegal settlers as well as apprehension of establishments that violate the Philippine Clean Water Act and other environmental laws. 

Last January 22, the Manila City government has ordered the temporary closure of Manila Zoo to allow the reconstruction of its sewer lines. The zoo is located near Estero de San Antonio Abad in Malate, Manila, which directly drains into the Manila Bay.

DENR ordered establishments around the bay to put up their own sewage treatment plants last January 11.

September 29, 2020 - 12:39pm

Opposition Sen. Leila de Lima slams the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for ordering the closure of two mining firms after acquiring dolomite from the two companies and dumping it on Manila Bay.

"Nakakatawa naman talaga ang DENR. Pagkatapos nilang isabog at ikalat ang dolomite sa dalampasigan ng Manila Bay, saka pa lang nila ngayon ipapa-imbestiga kung sanhi nga ba ng pagkamatay ng mga bahura ang natatapong dolomite ng dalawang minahan sa Alcoy, Cebu," De Lima says in a statement.

September 18, 2020 - 10:06am

The fish kill in the Baseco portion of the Manila Bay is an indication that it is degraded as it is, fisherfolk group Pamalakaya says.

"It‘s environmental degradation is supposed to be the main concern that the DENR should be seriously addressing, not busying itself with some kind of beach nourishment' that is actually ephemeral aesthetics, but irrelevant to rehabilitation," Pamalakaya says in a statement.

The group calls on the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources to conduct water sampling and laboratory analysis for possible water pollution. However, there is no established connection yet between the fish kill and the "white sand" project.

September 9, 2020 - 3:51pm

The Department of Health assures the public that "no untoward incidents" will occur as a result to the use of crushed dolomite rocks as "white sand" in the Manila Bay coastline.

The agency clarifies that dolomite is not known as a health hazard in its bulk state but can have harmful effects if it is in dust form, like any other dust particle.

"As stated by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the dolomite material that is being used in Baywalk is 2-5mm or 100 times bigger than dust, therefore does not get suspended in air," the DOH says in a statement.

September 9, 2020 - 9:04am

House members under the Makabayan bloc file a resolution seeking for an inquiry into the suitability and sustainability of the Manila Bay rehabilitation program following the dumping of crushed dolomite boulders on the coastline.

Rep. Eufemia Cullamat (Bayan Muna Party-list), Rep. Carlos Zarate (Bayan Muna Party-list), Rep. Ferdinand Gaite (Bayan Muna Party-list), Rep. Arlene Brosas (Gabriela Women's Party), Rep. France Castro (ACT Teachers Party-list) and Rep. Sarah Elago (Kabataan Party-list) filed the resolution.

The seven lawmakers cited people's opposition due to the project's impact to the environment, public health and injudicious utilization of public funds.

September 8, 2020 - 3:31pm

Manila Mayor Isko Moreno seeks clarification from Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu over the pronouncement of the Department of Health that using crushed dolomite rock for the beach nourishment project of Manila Bay can cause respiratory problems.

In a letter dated Sept. 7, 2020, Moreno cited the remarks of Health Undersecretary Rosario Vergeire that the material used as white sand in filling Manila Bay coastline may be harmful to people's health.

"Hence, pursuant to the faithful discharge of my duty to promote health and safety, enhance the right of the people to a balanced ecology and preserve the comfort and convenience of the city inhabitants, may we seek your clarification on this declaration of Usec. Vergeire to make sure that the health, comfort and convenience of the city inhabitants and other neighboring local government units are properly taken care of," Moreno says in the letter.

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