National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19 chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. on Wednesday expressed dismay over the failure of authorities to implement health protocols when it opened to the public the Manila Bay and its synthetic white sand beachfront on Roxas Boulevard.
“Dapat po iniiwasan po natin itong mga ganitong sitwasyon dahil talagang hindi po na-control ang crowd (We really should avoid these kinds of situations as there was failure to control the crowd),” Glavez said in a virtual briefing in BGC, Taguig City.
Hundreds of people trooped to Manila Bay to witness the partial opening of the controversial white sand beachfront last September 19 to 20.
Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko” Domagoso and Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu led the program and a clean-up activity on the famed tourist attraction.
However, what was supposed to be a joyful event turned nightmarish for some as health protocols were ignored by the attendees who were eager to take snapshots of Manila Bay ‘”white beach”.
In queues, people were seen almost neck to neck, others inadvertently removed their face masks and shields.
The failure to observe health protocols caused the relief of the police commander of Manila Police District (MPD) Station 5, which has jurisdiction over the area, for command responsibility.
Critics also pointed out the supposed unfair application of the law since those who violated the protocol on physical distancing at the Manila Bay went unpunished, while those who were caught in rallies even after practicing social distancing, or those doing regular activities such as the woman who was washing her family’s clothes in their backyard without a face mask, were jailed and meted hefty fines.
The two-day activity was eventually closed to the public and dozens of cops were deployed in the area in the succeeding days to prevent passers-by from piling up at the entrance of the bay to take photos.
Galvez said the NTF has already advised the local government units (LGUs) to strictly enforce the minimum health standards to curb the COVID-19 cases in the communities.
“We will make sure that it will not happen again,” Galvez vowed.
Prior to the controversial opening, the rehabilitation project of the Manila Bay already gathered attention due to the dumping of crushed dolomite rocks in the area.
It was widely opposed by environmentalists who argued that the materials used in the project may be harmful to persons who inhale its particles, and to the marine life.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Department of Health belied these claims.