Ermita Police Station Ariel Caramoan was sacked yesterday for allegedly failing to implement health protocols during the public viewing of the rehabilitated Manila Bay, in which throngs of people failed to observe social distancing.
Joint Task Force (JTF) COVID Shield commander Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar said in a statement that Caramoan “should have taken the initiative in planning and implementing strict security and health safety measures for the opening of the cleaned and beautified portion of the Manila Bay.”
“PLt. Col. Caramoan could have prevented the quarantine protocol violations at the Manila Bay if there were prior planning and regular monitoring of the situation in the area,” Eleazar added.
Hundreds of curious onlookers trooped to the Manila Bay’s “white sand beach” on Saturday and yesterday when it was briefly opened for public viewing. Photos of the incidents were widely shared on social media, showing visitors standing side-by-side despite the threat of COVID-19. A few were seen without face masks, such as this woman who even wore a red swimsuit to make her visit extra special.
Netizens have noticed that as of today, a section of the Manila Bay has been named “Dolomite Beach” on Google Maps.
Critics have slammed the government for spending millions of pesos on the beautification of Manila Bay, saying that resources should have been spent on the Philippines’ pandemic response instead. Environmentalists also called out the Duterte administration for using fake sand made from crushed dolomite and said that this would eventually be washed away by powerful typhoons.
However, the government said that the project was planned before COVID-19 struck and that it was illegal to reallocate the funds intended for it. Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque added that a cleaner Manila Bay could improve people’s mental health, which he said was necessary given the stresses caused by the pandemic.
Meanwhile, residents of Baseco were alarmed when they saw hundreds of dead fish floating on Manila Bay’s murky waters last week, and alleged that this may have been caused by the crushed dolomite dumped on the shore. Roque, without showing any proof, insinuated that someone may have sabotaged the Manila Bay project while Undersecretary Benny Antiporda said that it was “impossible” for the dolomite to kill marine life.