DENR to close Manila Baywalk’s dolomite beach for Undas

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 25) — The Department of Environment and Natural Resources announced on Monday the closure of Manila Baywalk’s dolomite beach for six days in observance of the All Saints' Day and All Souls’ Day.

The controversial beach area will be closed from Oct. 29 to Nov. 3.

The DENR also said children aged 12 years old and below will not be allowed to enter the site in compliance with the national government's COVID-19 health and safety guidelines.

"We would like to strongly remind everyone that the National Capital Region is under Alert Level No. 3, we are still in a pandemic, and the virus is still present," the DENR said in its statement.

About 65,000 people flocked to the artificial beach on Sunday alone, according to the police.

Manila Baywalk Coordinating Office deputy executive director Jacob Meimban said his office had no complete control over the crowd since anyone can simply enter the premises, adding the crowding could get worse if they restrict entry because people will gather in a tighter space.

The Department of Health reminded the local government of Manila and concerned national agencies to regulate and even revise the process if they cannot control the crowd.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire noted that the officials overseeing the dolomite beach violated the capacity allowed for outdoor spaces.

"Sinabi kapag Alert Level 3, ang outdoors natin 50% capacity. 'Yung nakita natin nung weekend, hindi po 'yun 50% capacity," she said.

[Translation: If it's Alert Level 3, outdoor spaces should be at 50% capacity. What we saw over the weekend was not 50% capacity.]

Several doctors also sounded the alarm. Infectious diseases expert Dr. Benjamin Co called for the permanent closure of the dolomite beach.

"First of all, it’s such a super spreader event. Even if it is outdoors, there is no distancing anymore. And children are allowed! Children are currently allowed only for essential travel. The government needs to make sure that local government units implement what the guidelines allow. Otherwise, this double standard on allowing events according to their standards will end up badly," he said.

The national government pushed for the opening of the Manila Baywalk Dolomite Beach in September 2020. Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said the white sand would help Filipinos' mental health amid the COVID-19 pandemic.