Overcrowding at the Acacia Tunnel Lighting in Barangay Inagawan Sub.

City government officials admitted the overcrowding at the Acacia Tunnel Lighting in Barangay Inagawan Sub is a learning curve to organizing future events, given that watchers lack of success to observe COVID-19 protocols despite frequent reminders during the event.

At least 1,300 bikers and hundreds of onlookers gathered for the culmination of the Balayong Bike Hero event in Barangay Inagawan where the city government had installed LED lights installed on the acacia trees that cover a 1-kilometer stretch of the national highway and has become an emerging local attraction.

City officials admitted that social distancing protocol was not observed as they did not foresee the large turnout of the crowd.

Balayong Festival 2021 committee chairperson Judith Raine Bayron said in an interview during the event that because some watchers came from far-flung barangays, they were unable to turn them away.

“Hindi ine-expect na ganito karami kasi sa bikers in-expect ko 600 participants lang. ‘Yong mga tao hindi ko ine-expect kasi marami ang nanggaling ng Aborlan and Narra. Kanina may pumunta rito galing norte, [from Barangays] Macarascas, Salvacion, na hindi natin kasi puwedeng pigilan ang pagpunta nila,” said Bayron.

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City Incident Management Team (IMT) commander Dr. Dean Palanca said in an interview Monday (March 9) that the event serves as a learning curve for city officials on how to plan their events better amidst the continuing pandemic.

“Hindi kukulang sa sampung libo ang tao doon sa area. Nakita talaga natin na hindi talaga nasunod ang social distancing. Siguro aral ‘yan sa mga susunod na activities na maging maingat at mapagplanuhan ng husto,” Palanca said.

“Ibig sabihin, sa pag-kontrol ng crowd, kung may darating pa, huwag nang papapasukin. Hopefully, wala ng maging problema sa susunod na linggo,” he added.

Dr. Palanca, however, added that it is also unlikely that there will be a sudden rise of local transmission cases because according to their observation, COVID-19 transmission happens to those who live in close quarters or who meet up regularly.

“Nakikita talaga namin na ang hawa is magkakasama sa loob ng bahay ng matagal. Karamihan diyan ay prolonged exposure at paulit-ulit. Pero possible pa rin [sa mass gatherings],” he explained.

The city government recently lifted tighter restrictions imposed in mid-February after several close contacts of an 82-year-old patient from Barangay San Jose all tested positive a few weeks after her death on February 7. Two institutions – Palawan State University Main Campus and the Hall of Justice Compound – were placed on lockdown for 14 days after some of its employees tested positive for COVID-19. Those who tested positive were all close contacts of the deceased patient.

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is a senior reporter for Palawan News who covers politics, education, environment, tourism, and human interest stories. She loves watching Netflix, reading literary fiction, and listens to serial fiction podcasts. Her favorite color is blue.