Isko to IATF: Sue DENR over dolomite beach overcrowding

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 26) — Manila Mayor Isko Moreno on Tuesday challenged the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to file charges against Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) officials, as crowds swelled at the Manila Bay dolomite beach — which can be a "superspreader event."

"I am calling the IATF. Charge those people in DENR of violating our rules. If we cannot implement it within their offices, then there is no point to implement this sa mga taong bayan (on our people)," Moreno said in an interview with ANC's Headstart.

Moreno, who is seeking the presidency in 2022, said the DENR did not coordinate with the city government on the reopening of the dolomite beach.

"Dapat yung mga nagpapatupad din sa national government ay may kusang palo din na sumunod. Binuksan nila, eh hindi naman kami in-inform," he said.

[Translation: National government officials implementing the health protocols should also follow them. They opened it, but they did not inform us.]

The Department of Health earlier said officials overseeing the artificial beach violated the capacity allowed for outdoor spaces after thousands of people visited the area on Sunday.

In areas under Alert Level 3 - which includes Metro Manila - outdoor spaces should only allow 50% capacity.

"Due diligence must be observed, especially in this situation wherein it can be a superspreader," Moreno said.

DENR's side

DENR Undersecretary Benny Antiporda said they received a letter from the city government expressing its support for the Manila Bay rehabilitation, and asking guidelines on the safety protocols being implemented in the dolomite beach.

"The documents that we received last night is asking us on our plans and what are the strategies that we're using in trying to control the crowd," Antiporda said during a Palace briefing.

"So very ano pa nga, very supportive pa ho 'yung letter niya [The letter is even very supportive] and the letter started with...'We are in full support of the project of the DENR.'"

Antiporda added that the issue on social distancing was addressed by allowing only 400 people at a time, and reminding them after five minutes to give way to the next batch of visitors.

In an interview with CNN Philippines' News.PH, Antiporda also offered an explanation to the overcrowding - which was evident on social media.

"'Yung nakunan po kasi ng litrato at video nung umaga, 'yan po 'yung umulan," he explained. "Nung umulan, biglang umalis 'yung mga tao, then biglang bumalik nung tumigil 'yung ulan. Ang daming dumating, so immediately inaksyunan naman po so hindi naman siya napabayaan talaga."

[Translation: The photos and videos were taken in the morning when it rained. People left the area because of the downpour, but then abruptly returned when the rain stopped. There were suddenly a lot of people, but we immediately addressed that, so it isn't true that we didn't do our job.]

Maintaining authorities have "done their best" in implementing rules, Antiporda said he believes there is no reason for a case to be filed against the DENR.

He added he is puzzled over Moreno's statement, noting the city government is also part of the Manila Bay Task Force.

"Kaya I don't know how did the mayor come up with such a statement when iisa po kami sa inter-agency task force. So, just hoping na hindi po ganun, he didn't mean what he's saying," he said.

[Translation: I don't know how the mayor came up with such a statement when we are part of the same inter-agency task force. So, just hoping he didn't mean what he's saying.]

In a separate briefing on Tuesday, the DENR also said only children aged 12 and above are allowed to visit the dolomite beach.

It also said it is eyeing to develop the artificial beach into a tourist spot.

For its part, Malacanang said it is leaving the possible filing of charges to the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the police, and the Manila city government.