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Cops deployed at park areas with expected holiday crowds

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Philippine National Police Chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar has ordered all police commanders to deploy sufficient personnel in all leisure areas as people are expected to flock there during the All Saints Day or "Undas" holiday today and Nov. 2.

Eleazer made the directive to ensure that safety protocols are being followed amid the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic.

"Coordinate with local government units and the management of establishments and leisure areas for the orderly implementation of health and safety regulations," Eleazar told police officers over the weekend.

Meanwhile, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources on Sunday assured it is recalibrating its crowd management measures to ensure visitors' adherence to health protocols while Manila Bay’s dolomite beach is closed until Nov. 3.

While the agency enjoins the public to appreciate the beauty of the dolomite beach project, DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu underscored that keeping people safe from COVID-19 remains their top concern.

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"The public’s health is still of paramount concern for us. This is the reason why we at the DENR are studying the guidelines to make sure that the public can still appreciate the beauty of the dolomite beach while keeping them free from sickness," he said.

“I would like to put on record that the Manila Bay Task Force will conduct an investigation on the said incident to assure the people that this will not happen again in the future,” Cimatu added.

He said he wanted to address the crowding incident last Oct. 24, during which an estimated 121,744 people visited the dolomite beach, nine days after its soft re-opening along Roxas Boulevard, Manila.

Cimatu apologized for the crush of people at the beach, promising that the agency “will confront the things that need to be corrected.”

To prevent overcrowding, the DENR decided to close the area from Oct. 29 to Nov. 3 in conjunction with the long holiday weekend.

Cimatu said a further investigation would be conducted during the beach closure to decide if the area would be reopened to the public after Nov. 3.

If not, he said, the dolomite beach would remain closed until the completion of the second phase of its rehabilitation and expansion.

The DENR chief designated retired Philippine Army Brig. Gen. Reuel Sorilla as the new task force’s ground commander of the dolomite beach.

As for other areas, the Picnic Grove in Tagaytay, a top tourist destination, resumed operations, allowing fully vaccinated visitors from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

On the other hand, Baguio City will be opened to the public beginning Nov. 1.

All ages are allowed to the summer capital, but visitors must be fully inoculated against COVID-19 while those aged 12 to 17-years-old must present a negative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) or antigen test result. The requirement is optional for those aged 11 and younger.

Eleazar also reminded the public to take note of requirements before planning visits to any leisure area to avoid encountering problems.

Meanwhile, Eleazar assured the public that police personnel are ready to secure streets and communities should National Capital Region (NCR) mayors decide to lift entirely or shorten the uniform curfew hours.

“The police will further intensify their efforts to secure the public even as the Christmas season approaches where flea markets or sales in the NCR will start going full blast. We will not allow criminals to exploit the festive mood of our people,” Eleazar said.

The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority is mulling to lift or at least adjust curfew hours to give way to longer mall hours.

MMDA chairman Benhur Abalos, however, said the proposal to change the current midnight to 4 a.m. curfew period is still up for the NCR mayors’ decision.

The national government has decided to still place NCR under Alert Level 3 from Nov. 1 to 14.

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