Duterte: DENR chief Cimatu to oversee Cebu City COVID-19 response


MANILA, Philippines (Updated June 23, 2020, 10:30 a.m.) — President Rodrigo Duterte is sending Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, a former armed forces chief, to Cebu City to look into and make recommendations on how the government will proceed in addressing rising COVID-19 cases in the city.

In a public address aired late Monday night, Duterte said Cimatu will head an “adjunct” agency to the Inter-Agency Task Force of Emerging Infectious Diseases in Cebu City.

Cimatu “will exercise the powers” of the task force, Dutere said.

“All he has to do, not for permission, but to advise Manila, here, that these things are being done, these things are not yet done, these things must be done,” Duterte also said in a mix of English and Filipino.

“I must have the picture of how grave... the situations are. I need to know,” he added.

While the rest of the country transitioned into the looser general community quarantine on June 15, Cebu City was placed on enhanced community quarantine from June 16 to 30.

The Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases said that this was due to “increasing number of new cases” and “widespread transmission” of COVID-19 in most of Cebu City’s barangays.

Peace adviser Carlito Galvez said at the meeting that he will also fly to Cebu City along with Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana to meet with regional IATF and assist Cimatu on his new task.

Galvez serves as the chief implementer of the COVID-19 action plan.

The FREEMAN reported earlier Monday that the Cebu City Health Office reported 37 cases, 42 recoveries and one death on June 22. Sunstar reported that Cebu City has now recorded 4,449 COVID-19 infections.

The Department of Health logged 630 COVID-19 cases in the country, pushing national tally to 30,682. Death toll is at 1,177 while 8,143 have so far recovered.

Cimatu and Boracay rehab

Cimatu, in the same meeting, said he welcomes his new task to “be doing things to save the lives of some people in Cebu.”

In 2018, Duterte tapped Cimatu to lead the inter-agency task force to lead the rehabilitation of the world-famous Boracay island from April 26 to October 26.

But days before Boracay island was reopened to the public, Cimatu said rehabilitation of Boracay would continue beyond the six-month closure. The DENR secretary then cited the ongoing road and drainage improvement projects that were delayed due to successive typhoons. 

Duterte had recently extended the term of the Boracay Inter-Agency Task Force until May 8, 2021, saying that there is a “need to complete critical projects” in the island.

Two years after the creation of the task force, some structures have yet to be cleared and several establishments are not yet compliant with road easement requirements. Duterte said as of the end of March, 33% of establishments on Boracay are not yet compliant with the '25 meters plus five meters' beach easement and 27% of establishments have not complied with the road easement, required under existing laws.

There are still 723 structures built on forestland blocks, 112 on the beach easement, and 334 on the road easement, the president added. A total of 111 structures on wetlands, 227 structures on the beach easement, and 896 on the road easement since the creation of the task force. — Kristine Joy Patag with reports from The STAR/Alexis Romero





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