DENR's solution to dolomite beach crowding: 15-minute stay, one-day shutdown

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 25) — The Department of Environment and Natural Resources will implement a 15-minute time limit among those who will visit the Manila Baywalk Dolomite Beach to reduce the number people in the area.

In an interview with CNN Philippines' The Source on Monday, Environment Undersecretary Jonas Leones said this is one of the agency's "remedial measures" to accommodate more people who would like to visit the dolomite beach, a week after it opened due to eased restrictions in Metro Manila.

"Pagpasok nila (Upon entry), there will be somebody who will be guiding them...Picture-picture lang sila doon (They can take their pictures there) for 10-15 minutes. After that, they should leave the premises, so other people can see the dolomite area," he said.

Manila Baywalk Coordinating Office deputy executive director Jacob Meimban said "tens of thousands of people" visited the dolomite beach on Sunday, but his office had no complete control over the large crowd since anyone can simply enter the premises.

READ: Manila Bay office admits it has 'no control' over large crowd at dolomite beach 

Leones said they were not much alarmed when over 8,000 people flocked to the dolomite beach when it reopened on Oct. 16, but they were surprised when visitors hit 25,000 the following day. He said this number even doubled just on Oct. 23.

"Siguro hindi lang excitement ang nangyayari sa mga kababayan natin pero na-curious rin sila sa dolomite. Siguro ‘yun ‘yung naging compelling reason why they really wanted to go and see the area," he added.

[Translation: Maybe it's not just the excitement but the people were also curious about the dolomite. And that was their compelling reason why they really wanted to go and see the area.]

Meimban said the dolomite beach, which measures 1.2 hectares, could only accommodate up to 5,000 people. Leones said it could even accommodate up to 10,000 pending its expansion.

According to Manila Police District chief Brig. Gen. Leo Francisco, about 65,000 people flocked to the artificial beach on Sunday alone.

Francisco said he was in discussion with the DENR and the Department of Tourism to address the crowding at the dolomite beach.

A one-day shutdown will be implemented weekly to maintain the dolomite beach, which is made up of hundreds of millions of pesos worth of artificial white sand. The DENR will also coordinate with the Philippine National Police, the Philippine Coast Guard, Metro Manila Development Authority, and the local government of Manila to discuss other crowd control measures, Leones said.

The agency also hopes to make the dolomite beach swimmable as early as December once it meets the bay's water quality, he added.

The Health department asked the DENR to regulate the number of visitors in light of the prohibition on mass gatherings.

"I call on all of our national agencies. Whatever was discussed in IATF, whatever safety protocols that we are now implementing, this is for the good of our population. Kailangan ipatupad po natin iyon (we should be implementing that)," Health Undersecretary Rosario Vergeire said Monday.

"Kung nakikita natin na hindi kaya, tulad ng sinasabi ng ibang officials na masyadong madami, hindi namin kaya ipatupad, let's regulate that. Hindi natin kaya? Baguhin natin siguro ang proseso. Pero kailangan makatulong namin kayong lahat," she added.

[Translation: If we cannot do it, just like other officials say that the crowd is too many, or they cannot simply implement anything, let's regulate. We can't do it? Then let's change the process. But you should be able to help us.]