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DENR May Close Manila Bay Dolomite Beach On Weekends; Studying Use Of Downloadable Gate Pass For Visitors

DENR May Close Manila Bay Dolomite Beach On Weekends; Studying Use Of Downloadable Gate Pass For Visitors
People flock to the Manila Baywalk Dolomite Beach on Oct. 17, 2021 as restrictions were eased in Metro Manila following the decline in COVID-19 cases. Photo by Edd Gumban, The Philippine STAR

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is looking into the possibility of closing the Manila Bay dolomite beach on weekends, as well as issuing a downloadable gate pass to visitors who wish to see the man-made beach after thousands trooped to the site since it opened.

DENR Undersecretary Benny Antiporda, in an interview with “Sa Totoo Lang” on One PH on Tuesday, Oct. 26, said it was Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chairman Benhur Abalos who made the proposal to close the dolomite beach on weekends – the days where most people flock to area.

Antiporda said the recommendation was good since the members of the MMDA and the Manila Police District could not control the people outside the dolomite beach even if they could so inside.

Maganda rin po ‘yung proposal ng chairperson ng MMDA kung maari weekends, ay maisara na lang’ yung dolomite beach na ‘yan,” he said. “Dahil talagang hindi natin mapipigilan ‘yung mga tao even though we can control them inside the dolomite beach, doon naman sa labas ay mahihirapang mag-control ang MMDA at Manila Police District.”

Antiporda also raised the possibility of closing the area altogether for phase two of the Manila Bay rehabilitation project.

 Under phase two, the stretch of white sand near the US Embassy will be replenished to achieve one-inch thickness, as well as other activities such as installation of solar lighting, among others. A P265-million budget will be allocated for phase two of the dolomite project.

He said it was DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu who thought of totally closing the beach while phase two is ongoing.

Since reopening on Oct. 16, thousands of individuals, including children, have visited the dolomite beach after the easing of quarantine restrictions in Metro Manila to Alert Level 3.

Read More: Thousands Visit Dolomite Beach

The dolomite beach will be closed to the public from Oct. 29 to Nov. 3, according to Antiporda. This is to prevent the public from flocking the man-made beaches this weekend as cemeteries will also be closed from Oct. 29 to Nov. 2.

The area opened in 2020, drawing criticisms for supposedly being a health hazard as well as a waste of public funds as the country is battling the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s part of the Manila Bay rehabilitation project, with the government spending P389 million for the whole project while P28 million for the overlay of the crushed dolomite.

Downloadable gate pass

The DENR is also considering to require individuals to download a gate pass should they wish to visit the dolomite beach, which is being promoted by the agency as a potential tourist spot.

Nakalagay sa downloadable na gate pass kung anong oras kayo naka-schedule [pumunta], anong pangalan niyo‘yung edad niyo. So ‘yung contact tracing din po ay kasama na rin dunmas mapapaganda, (The downloadable gate pass would include your schedule to visit, your name, your age. This includes contact tracing, that would be better,” Antiporda said.

This proposal, Antiporda noted, is still on the drawing board. He said the problem is that this might not be needed anymore once quarantine restrictions in Metro Manila are further eased.

Ang problema naman po natin ay kapag bumaba po ‘yung alert level natin ay it might mean na hindi na po siya kailanganPero since Alert Level 3 tayogagawin natin kung ano ‘yung kailangan gawin,” he said.

‘Bugso ng damdamin’

Asked about Manila Mayor Isko Moreno’s challenge to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to charge DENR officials over the overcrowding in the dolomite beach, Antiporda said that the local chief executive’s reaction may have been an emotional outburst.

The DENR undersecretary added that Moreno sent a letter to the DENR where he “fully supported” the project, as well as asking the department for strategies and action undertaken on the overcrowding

“It might be kung tawagin natin sa Tagalog ay ‘yung bugso ng damdamin (It might be what we call in Tagalog an emotional outburst) so I don't think we need to talk about that. What we need to do is to come up with a good strategy on how to protect the lives of our fellowmen,” he said.

Read More: Isko Blasts Environment Officials Over Dolomite Beach Overcrowding; Children Aged 11 And Below Banned From Visiting The Area