The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) assured that it is recalibrating its crowd management measures to ensure visitors' adherence to the health protocols implemented while the Manila Bay Dolomite Beach is closed until Nov. 3.

While the DENR enjoins the public to appreciate the beauty of the dolomite beach project, Secretary Roy A. Cimatu emphasized that keeping people safe from the coronavirus remains the top concern of the agency.

"The public’s health is still of paramount concern for us. This is the reason why we at the DENR are studying the guidelines to make sure that the public can still appreciate the beauty of the dolomite beach while keeping them free from sickness," Cimatu said.

“I would like to put on record that the Manila Bay Task Force (MBTF) will conduct an investigation on the said incident to assure the people that this will not happen again in the future,” said Cimatu in his opening statement during a press conference on October 27.

Cimatu said this to address the crowding incident last October 24 where an estimated 121,744 people visited the dolomite beach, nine days after the "soft re-opening" of the beach along Roxas Boulevard in Manila City.

The DENR chief also apologized, saying that the agency “will confront the things that need to be corrected.”

To prevent overcrowding at the dolomite beach, the DENR has decided to close the area simula noong Oct. 29 to Nov. 3 in conjunction with the long holiday weekend.

Cimatu assured that further investigation will be conducted during the beach closure to decide if the area will be reopened to the public after Nov. 3.

If not, the DENR chief said the dolomite beach will remain closed until the completion of the second phase of its rehabilitation and expansion.

Cimatu has also designated retired Philippine Army Brigadier General Reuel Sorilla as the new MBTF Ground Commander of the dolomite beach.

Sorilla is also concurrently serving as the DENR OIC Director of Environmental Law Enforcement and Protection Service (ELEPS).

“I will immediately start the ground dashing. I’m grateful for the trust and confidence given by our Secretary. I feel excited to contribute not only in the enforcement of environmental laws but also of crowd control here in the dolomite beach,” said Sorilla.

“My initial plan is to ensure security and safety of all stakeholders and identify ways on how to improve emplaced system,” he added.

Sorilla has since ordered the deployment of several ELEPS personnel as added manpower for stricter security patrolling and monitoring in the area.

Aside from these measures, the DENR is also considering several strategies to help ease the crowding situation in the dolomite beach.

"We are aware that if this [overcrowding] situation continues, and the minimum health standards are ignored, this may bring us to a scenario of a possible super spreader event," DENR Undersecretary for Policy, Planning, and International Affairs Jonas R. Leones said.

According to Leones, the DENR has already "implemented the temporary ban on minors to enter the dolomite beach, consistent with COVID-19 Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases’ protocols."

Children 11 years old and below will not be allowed at the dolomite beach.

The DENR is also considering the "cinema approach" for those who want to visit the dolomite beach, he pointed out.

"[Through the cinema approach] visitors will only be limited to the capacity of the dolomite beach area and will only have up to two hours to stay and enjoy the scenery. The area will then be cleaned and prepared for an hour, after which another batch will be allowed to enter," Leones explained.

He said visitors may be given "stubs" just like in movie houses, which will then give a "fair chance for everyone to enjoy the beach."

Also recommended is the designation of a special lane for persons with disabilities, pregnant women, and senior citizens.

Measures of either closing the beach on weekends or closing it until the second phase of the rehabilitation is completed shall be carefully examined and will be based on the decision of the MBTF and the Alert Level status in Metro Manila. ###