PNP chief relieves Ermita Police Station commander for failure to control crowds at 'white sand' beach

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 20) — The country's top cop has relieved the commander of the Ermita Police Station for his failure to control the crowds who flocked to see the "white sand" beach on the baywalk along Manila Bay.

In a statement on Sunday, Joint Task Force COVID Shield said it was thankful to PGen. Camilo Cascolan for making the move, saying Ermita police chief PLtCol. Ariel Caramoan should have planned and implemented "strict security and health safety measures" in the area.

There should have been planning and regular monitoring of the area prior to the opening, the statement read, so quarantine violations could have been prevented.

The task force also said Caramoan failed to comply with the order "to monitor and immediately take action on violations of the quarantine protocols that are going viral in the social media."

Speaking to CNN Philippines on Sunday, JTF COVID Shield Commander PLtGen. Guillermo Eleazar said they received word that large crowds were in the area at around 6 a..m, prompting the Manila Police District director and other personnel to respond.

"Ibig sabihin ay dapat palang ma-prevent yan, dapat naisip na niya yan. At hindi 'yung magre-react tayo kapag nangyari na itong sitwasyon na ito," he said.

[Translation: This means it should have been prevented, he should have thought of it. We shouldn't just react after the situation has already happened.]

He said what happened to Caramoan should serve as a lesson to others -- that they should plan and have the initiative to respond to similar situations.

Photos shared on social media showed large crowds of people lining up to get their chance to see the "white sand" beach up close, ignoring reminders to keep the proper distance between themselves according to health protocols.

Caramoan will be replaced by PLtCol. Alex Daniel as officer-in-charge.

The overlaying of the sand with crushed dolomite boulders along an area on the baywalk drew public interest and controversy. The project was criticized by groups as being merely aesthetic, and that the sand will eventually wash off due to tidal action. 

But the Environment Department defended the project, saying the overlaying of the dolomite materials has been thoroughly studied. It said engineering interventions like "geotubes" had been put in place to help prevent erosion. 

It also refuted allegations that a recent fish kill in a nearby community was linked to the "white sand" project.