Manila City Mayor Isko Moreno Domagoso on Tuesday urged the Inter-Agency Task Force Against COVID-19 to file cases against officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for opening the dolomite beach in Manila Bay to the public without informing the city government.
The Palace, for its part, said it is up to the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) if cases would be filed against Environment officials responsible for the crowding of the beach.
Moreno said the decision to reopen the dolomite beach was made without proper coordination with the Manila city government.
"They opened it, but we were not informed,” Moreno said in an interview on ANC’s Headstart.
Crowds flocking to the beach Sunday could have been a “super spreader” event, he said.
“They are the ones who enforce, but they are also the ones who violate [the rules],” Moreno said, even as he lamented the lack of physical distancing and the presence of children below 12 years old in the area.
"If they cannot implement it within their offices, then there is no point implementing it to the public,” he added.
Moreno pointed out that the DENR is in control of the area because of its continuous efforts to develop the beachfront.
“In fact, they have a gate so you can enter the dolomite beach area.
But due diligence must be observed especially in this situation wherein it can be a super spreader,” Moreno said.
Since the Manila Bay Coordinating Office, an agency under the administrative supervision of the Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, reopened the dolomite beach on Oct. 17, thousands of people have flocked to the area, with an estimated 8,000 crowding the beach on reopening day, to about 65,000 on Sunday—including young children.
The DENR later on banned children below 12 years of age from entering the dolomite beach, saying it was "overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and interest of the public" in the ersatz white sand beach.
Moreno said that if the national government, particularly the IATF of which the DENR is a member, is serious in implementing COVID-19 protocols, then it must abide by the same rules it has set.
On Monday, the Department of Health raised alarm over the failure of visitors, which include children, to observe the existing health protocols amid the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic.
The overcrowding also prompted the DENR to prohibit children aged 12 and below from visiting the dolomite beach.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque also advised parents or guardians to avoid bringing children to crowded places.
“As a general rule, unvaccinated children must stay home. But there’s an exception. They can go out to exercise and visit open areas because that’s good for their mental health. Perhaps, we have to emphasize that they have to avoid sites like this [dolomite beach]),” he said.
Roque, nevertheless, said the reopening of Manila Bay dolomite beach was meant to promote positive mental health amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In an online briefing, Environment Undersecretary Jonas Leones admitted that there was a failure on their part to control the crowd when thousands of people flocked to the dolomite beach on Sunday.
Undersecretary Benny Antiporda, however, said they were quick enough to order visitors to enter by batches to decongest the area.
Leones declined to comment on Domagoso's remarks calling for cases to be filed against the DENR officials.
Meanwhile, Senator Nancy Binay suggested closing down the beach until the DENR can come out with regulations for the area.
While frontline workers were doing all they could to stop the spread of COVID-19, there were those who organized events or offered “unnecessary attractions.”
The DENR, she said, failed to manage the crowds which can result in rapid community transmission of COVID-19.