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Thousands Visit Dolomite Beach

Thousands Visit Dolomite Beach
People flock to Manila Baywalk Dolomite Beach on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, to unwind as restrictions were eased amid the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. Photo by Edd Gumban, The Philippine STAR

Despite rains and pandemic restrictions, thousands trooped to the Manila Bay dolomite beach on Sunday, Oct. 24.

At least 4,000 people visited the man-made beach before dawn on Sunday, Manila Bay coordinating office deputy executive director Jacob Meimban Jr. told dzMM.

Visitors need to be allowed inside the 1.2-hectare dolomite beach to prevent them from crowding at the entrance, Meimban said.

“With a 12,000-square-meter area, we can implement social distancing even with 5,000 people,” Meimban said.

But according to radio reports, the visitors failed to observe physical distancing in the dolomite beach at past 7 a.m.

Meimban said implementing social distancing in the area is challenging because family members usually stick together during the visit.

Crowds should be allowed inside to prevent a super spreader event at the entrance, he said.

“People are mobile in the dolomite beach, giving them elbow room to walk around, as opposed to if we let them wait outside where they are static,” Meimban said.

He said the dolomite beach would be closed to the public on Friday, Oct. 29, for maintenance work.

At least 25,000 people have visited the dolomite beach along Manila’s Baywalk since it reopened on Oct. 16 following the easing of quarantine restrictions in the National Capital Region under Alert Level 3, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said.

Swimming remains prohibited as the bay’s chloroform levels have yet to reach the standard fit for recreational activities, the DENR said.

Last year, controversy hounded the move to use crushed dolomite boulders for the project, which was part of Manila Bay rehabilitation.

This was because many criticized the project, throwing allegations that it was a health hazard and a waste of public funds amid the pandemic.

It has also been attracting large crowds when mass gatherings are not yet allowed to avoid the spread of COVID-19.

But the DENR explained the beach nourishment with the use of dolomite was a significant component of the rehabilitation aimed to protect the coastal resources in the area and prevent coastal flooding, erosion and pollution.

Being a mineral, a naturally occurring chemical compound that is calcium magnesium carbonate, the dolomite is not detrimental to the ecosystems of Manila Bay, and is a known neutralizer that lessens the acidity of seawater making it popular for use in fish aquariums, the DENR said.

As to the claim that the dolomites allegedly pose health hazards to the public, the Department of Health also assured that  “no untoward incidents will occur as a result of the endeavor.”

The DOH said the dolomite material used for the project was 100 times bigger than dust and would not get suspended in the air that would make it hazardous.

The DOH added the “dolomite, in its bulk state, is not a known health hazard” and was not included in the list of carcinogens.

The estimated cost of the entire Manila Bay rehabilitation project was P389 million and around PHP28 million was allotted for the dolomite overlay.

On claims that the project was a waste of public funds, the DENR assured the public that the funds used for the project would not be put to waste as people expressed fears that the dolomite sands would simply be washed away especially during typhoons.

The DENR engineering interventions were made to prevent the artificial white sand from being washed away.