MANILA (UPDATE) – ‘Tens of thousands’ of visitors flocked to the Manila Baywalk dolomite beach on Sunday, an official said, adding that authorities did everything in their power to control the crowd.
“Kahapon (Yesterday), nasa (there were about) tens of thousands,” Manila Bay Coordinating Office deputy executive Director Jacob Meimban Jr. said Monday when asked how many people went to visit the artificial beach the previous day.
The Manila Police District estimated some 65,000 in total went to the area on Sunday.
“Pinagsasabihan naman natin iyong mga nasasawata nating nagbi-break ng physical, social distancing,” MPD chief Brig. Gen. Leo Francisco said in a televised public briefing.
(We tell off those we catch breaking physical, social distancing rules.)
The area was closed for at least an hour that day after some 4,000 visitors already trooped to the area early morning.
But Meimban said closing the gates only led to congestion in the surrounding areas.
“Nag-try kami na isarado ang gate, at hanggang ganoon lang yung capacity, halimbawa ay 1,000. Kaya lang, ang nangyari ay nagkaroon ng congestion sa labas. Ibig sabihin, sa labas ng gate mas makitid yun. At thousands of people ay nakalinya, nakapila, at mas delikado yan. Dikit-dikit sila,” he said.
(We tried to close the gate, and limit the crowd to, say, 1,000. But what happened was that, there was congestion outside. Outside the gates, the space is narrower. Thousands of people were in line and they were close to one another.)
“So, ang unang ginawa namin nung nakaraang linggo, imbis na isarado ang gate, at maglagay lang kami ng limit ay hindi pwede mangyari 'yon. Minabuti namin na buksan na lang ang gate at papasukin na lang lahat.”
(So what we did, instead of closing the gates and imposing a head count limit, we opened the gates and allowed everyone in.)
“Makikita niyo rin naman sa larawan na although nagkukumpol-kumpol sila, dahil ito yung mga pami-pamilya. Pero sa loob ng dolomite beach, meron silang elbow room na nakakalakad sila, nakakakilos sila, kumpara nung nasa labas sila ng gate na talaga naman at dikit-dikit sila,” he added..
(If you see the pictures, although people were sticking together by families, they had space allowing them to walk, to move around, as compared to outside the gates when they were close to each other.)
Meimban said they found it hard to control the crowds especially during the late afternoon.
“Ito yung pinaka-challenge sa amin sa hapon. D'yan kasi yung mga tao nagtatagal nang isa hanggang dalawang oras, dahil naghihintay ng sunset.”
(Afternoon is the most challenging time for us for crowd control, because that's when people stick around for an hour or two to catch the sunset.)
POSSIBLE SUPERSPREADER EVENT
Alliance of Health workers president Robert Mendoza expressed concerns about the crowding.
“Natakot tayo po. Alam po natin, sa ngayon po ay mataas pa rin ang ating utilization rate doon sa mga [intensive care units], sa mga emergency room po ano. At nakita natin na ito ay talagang superspreader din. Puwedeng mag-cause ng pagkakalat ng ating virus. At alam naman natin na kahit bakunado na tayong lahat, ay meron ka pa rin, prone ka pa rin magkasakit. Kaya sana ma-control ito.”
(We are afraid. We know that as of now, intensive care unit and emergency room utilization for COVID cases remains high. And we see that this can be a superspreader that can cause the spread of the virus. And we know that even if we are all vaccinated, we can still get sick with COVID. So we need to control this.)
Mendoza suggested that people be allowed into the area by batches.
“Siguro po ano, i-control talaga yung crowd. And then kung by batch, puwedeng by batch. Basta, hindi natin makita na talagang nagkukumpulan yung mga tao. At the same time, sundin talaga yung minimum health protocols kasi alam natin na hindi naman nakikita ng ating mga kapulisan natin kung sino yung mga sumusunod sa minimum health protocols,” he said.
(Maybe we can control the crowd, or let them in by btaches as long as they don't hang out in clusters. At the same time, we should also follow minimum health protocols because the police can't catch every single violator.)
Meimban said they tried this already, but it did not seem to work.
“Ang nangyari ay talagang ganoon pa rin, mas dumami ang tao sa labas, at siksikan sila. So kahapon, halimbawa, ang ginawa namin dahil ito yung crunch time, 5 o’clock to 6 o’clock, thousands ng tao d'yan ang dumarating sabay-sabay.”
(What happened was, we saw the same results--a crowd formed outside, and they were sticking together. So what happened yesterday for example, from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. a lot of people came, since that's the crunch time.)
“At hindi namin sila pupuwedeng na papasukin nang kaagad, nang sabay-sabay. So ang ginawa na lang namin kahapon ay pinapakiusapan namin yoong mga tao na nauna at pinapalabas namin para yung mga nasa labas naman ay makapasok.”
“So naglalagay muna kami ng holding area. Binigyan namin ng limang minuto yung mga nauna. Tapos, pinapalabas namin yun,” he said.
“Pero maniwala ka, meron nang time limit yan. Meron na rin yung numbers. Pero, makikita ninyo sa larawan ‘no at saka sa data, libo-libo pa rin yan,” he said.
(And we can't let them in at the same time. So we asked those who inside to get out so that those outside can get in. So, we placed a holding area. We gave them five minutes, then send them out. But believe me, we already had a time limit, we already had numbers, but there were still thousands outside.)
Meimban said they meant well when they opened the dolomite beach to the public.
“Kami naman po ay binubuksan lang namin yung dolomite beach para makatulong din kami sa tao na magkaroon sila ng open space para mapuntahan at para naman ma-appreciate nila kung makita ano yung ginawa namin para malinis itong lugar na ito.”
“So ano yung pwede nating gawin dahil talagang gusto naman nila pumunta d'yan? Hindi naman pwede namin sila ipagtabuyan," he said.
(We opened the dolomite beach so people will have an open space, and so they can appreciate the work we have done to clean up the area. What can we do when they want to go there? We can't just drive them away.)
He noted some visitors refuse to leave the area until it was dark.
“Dala-dala po nila ang kanilang mga anak, pati na po ang kanilang mga alagang hayop. Gaya ng aso at saka pusa. Lahat po yun, grabe po ang pakiusap namin. Pero talagang hindi sila umaalis at naghihintay sila. Aalis na lang po sila kapag madilim na.”
(The brought their kids, they brought their pets, their dogs and cats. We asked them to leave. But they really stayed and only left after sunset.)
MINORS STILL NOT ALLOWED FOR LEISURE ACTIVITIES OUTSIDE HOMES: MALACANANG
Presidential and IATF spokesman Harry Roque reiterated Monday that minors in Metro Manila are only allowed outside their residence for essential activities.
"Hindi pa po pupuwede talagang magpasyal-pasyal ang mga bata," Roque said when asked for comment on the presence of children at the dolomite beach.
(Kids are not yet allowed outside for leisure activities.)
"Nananawagan po kami sa ating mga kababayan, pandemya pa po. Bagama’t bumababa po ang mga kaso natin, eh nandiyan pa po si COVID-19. So huwag po tayong magpabaya," he added.
(We appeal to the public and remind them that there is still a pandemic. Although our cases are going down, there is still COVID-19. So, let's not be complacent.)
"Talaga naman po ang Dolomite eh for the enjoyment of everyone. Pero huwag naman hong maging dahilan ‘yan para magkaroon tayo ng superspreader event."
(The dolomite beach is for the enjoyment of everyone. But let it not be a reason for a superspreader event.)
Roque asked policemen in Manila to enforce social distancing rules at the dolomite beach.
HOW TO ADDRESS CONGESTION PROBLEM
Meimban said officials will be meeting today to discuss what can be done to address the problem of crowding in the area.
“Ngayong araw ay mag-uusap-usap kami ng aming mga partners, inter-agency Manila Bay Task Force. At i-evaluate namin yung mga panyayari sa nakaraang linggo. At mula d'yan ay maglalabas kami ng mga panibagong pamamaraan sa likod ng patuloy na pandemic.”
“Nasa pandemic situation tayo, we are very aware of that. Kaya pag-uusapan po namin yan,” he said.
(Today, we will meet our partners, the inter-agency Manila Bay Task Force and we'll evaluate what happened. From there, we'll release new guidelines. We are very aware that we're in a pandemic so we'll be talking about that.)
Meimban had previously said that the beach will be closed to the public on Friday for maintenance work.
MPD TOLD TO SEND MORE COPS TO ENFORCE PROTOCOLS
Philippine National Police chief Guillermo Eleazar directed the Manila Police District (MPD) to send more cops to the dolomite beach to enusre that visitors observe the minimum public health standards.
“Inatasan ko na ang Director, MPD na magdagdag ng pulis sa dolomite area ng Manila Bay upang tiyakin na nasusunod ang minimum public health safety protocols," Eleazar said in a statement.
(I directed the MPD Director to send more policemen to the dolomite area of Manila Bay to ensure that minimum public health safety protocols are followed.)
"Kasama sa aking utos ang pakikipag-ugnayan sa lokal na pamahalaan upang magkaroon ng maayos na sistema, lalo na sa pagdadala ng mga bata na nakita natin sa video at sa mga litrato na kumalat sa social media."
(I have also asked them to coordinate with the local government to ensure a proper system of implementation, especially as kids were brought to the area as seen in photos and videos uploaded on social media.)
Eleazar noted that he understands the excitement of the public to go out with the prolonged lockdown.
But he stressed that this is not an excuse to break the health protocols.
"Subalit hindi dahilan ito upang ipagsawalang-bahala ang kaligtasan ng bawat isa, lalo na ang mga batang isinama nila gayong malinaw sa patakaran na hindi pa puwede silang lumabas under the COVID Alert Level 3 status."
(But this is not an excuse to disregard others' safety, especially the kids who were brought to the area despite it being clear that they're not allowed outside under the COVID Alert Level 3 status.)
--Teleradyo, 25 October 2021