MANILA (2nd UPDATE) - Manila Bay's dolomite beach will be closed for at least an hour after some 4,000 visitors have already trooped to the area as of early Sunday, an official said.
At least 25,000 people have visited Manila Bay dolomite beach in the first week it reopened following the capital region's shift into Alert Level 3, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources earlier said.
Authorities have extended up to 300 meters the area that is open to the public, according to Jacob Meimban Jr, deputy executive director of Manila Bay Coordinating Office.
Marshals reminding the public to observe physical distancing have been doubled, he said. The beach measures around 1.2 hectares or 12,000 square meters, he added.
"Inutusan ko na ang ground commander namin d'yan na pansamantalang pigilan ang pagpasok ng tao. Ang entrance kasi d'yan ay nasa Pedro Gil Pansamantala muna ihinto ang pagpasok ng tao at papuntahin muna sa Remedios," he told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.
(I've directed the ground commander to temporarily stop the entry of people. The entrance is in Pedro Gil. I've ordered him to ask people to go to Remedios instead.)
"Magandang lakaran yung papuntang Remedios hanggang sa Abad, 'yang stretch ng Baywalk Area... Balik sila ng 1 oras para yung mga lumabas na bisita ay sila ang papalit."
(People can walk along the stretch of Remedios to Abad in the Baywalk Area...They can return in an hour to replace visitors that have just left the area.)
Visitors cannot go inside in batches as this will cause long and congested queues outside, Meimban said.
"Ginawa na namin 'yan (pag-hold sa tao sa entrance). Ang nangyari ay lalo nagkaka-congestion sa labas, na sa tingin namin ay mas delikado dahil dikit-dikit sila doon at hindi gumagalaw," he said.
(We've done that already, it only made congestion outside worse, which we think is more dangerous because it causes overcrowding.)
ABS-CBN's Jekki Pascual, who is in the area, reported that visitors include children, and some promptly left when the rain poured around 8 a.m.
He also observed that some visitors spend some time inside, laying mats or blankets to sit or lie on, while some young people were seen playing volleyball.
Visitors are not asked if they have been vaccinated against COVID-19, and their body temperatures are not checked, said Pascual.
Crowds usually come in at around 5 p.m. to watch the sunset and leave at 6 p.m., according to Meimban.
The beach will be closed to the public on Friday for maintenance work, he said.
Swimming remains prohibited as the bay's chloroform levels have yet to reach the safety standard, he added.
The police said a meeting will be held in the coming days to check if there is a need to amend the rules.
More than 500 Philippine Army reservists conducted a clean-up operation at the dolomite beach and Baseco beach in Manila.
"Anything na makakatulong sa komunidad, reservist natin ang mag-aaksyon. Kailangan din namin ng tulong ng mamamayan natin para maprotektahan natin ang kalikasan at ang ating bansa para mapakinabang ng din ng kabataan na susunod na salinglahat natin," Major Gen Fernando Felipe, commander of Philippine Army Reserve Command.
(Reservists will do anything we can do to help the community. We also need the public help in protecting the environment and our country so the youth can benefit in the future.)
- with reports from Jekki Pascual, ABS-CBN News