As Cimatuâs Cebu assignment kicks off: Baragays in focus
OPAV Secretary Michael Dino briefs fellow Cabinet Secretaries Eduardo Año, Roy Cimatu, Carlito Galvez, Francisco Duque, and Delfin Lorenzana on the COVID-19 situation in Cebu City during a meeting at SEDA Hotel yesterday.
Contributed Photo
As Cimatu’s Cebu assignment kicks off: Baragays in focus
Mitchelle L. Palaubsanon, Caecent No-ot Magsumbol, Lorraine L. Ecarma, Mary Ruth R. Malinao (The Freeman) - June 24, 2020 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines —  As he focuses on implementation of health protocols in barangays, retired general and current Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu has arrived in Cebu City to carry out a special assignment from President Rodrigo Duterte: Assess the COVID-19 situation and recommend what needs to be done to address it.

The rise in the number of cases in the city, especially in the first week of June, the same week the city was placed under general community quarantine, has alarmed government.

A known government troubleshooter, Cimatu is expected to hit the ground to the barangay level to gather data and speak with people concerned.

“I will really find out the center of gravity of the problem here in Cebu City. I will still be going down to the barangays and find out the totality of the problem,” Cimatu said yesterday.

When the number of cases went up to up to at least 200 in a day, authorities attributed the spike to backlogs.

Fewer Cases

Mayor Edgardo Labella said yesterday there are now fewer active cases specifically in Barangays Mambaling and Luz, which had sitios put on lockdown during the first round of enhanced community quarantine owing the rise in the number of cases.

Yesterday, Cebu City recorded 30 cases, the lowest number since it reverted to ECQ mid-June.

As of yesterday, it has a total of 4,479 cases but only 2,213 are active cases. At least 2,177 have also recovered from the disease, 31 of which were recorded yesterday.

Cimatu said he is optimistic that the problem can be addressed with the public’s cooperation.

“Naniniwala ako na with the full cooperation of the people, sandali lang naman ito… like a first aid, stop the bleeding muna… I am really hopeful, I'm optimistic that this will be solved the quickest possible time,” he said.

Also in Cebu City yesterday were Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Health Secretary Francisco Duque, and Secretary Carlito Galvez, chief implementer of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for COVID-19.

Hard lockdown?

While emphasizing the need for protocols to be followed like wearing of masks and social distancing, Año believes there is no need to for a hard lockdown.

“I don’t think there is a need for that. We have been constantly communicating and consulting with each other even with the RIATF (Regional IATF) in this pandemic. Talaga naming no government is prepared for this pandemic,” he said.

For areas in Cebu under GCQ, for example, the mayor can implement a localized lockdown.

“For example, if there are two new cases, the mayor can impose weather it is a street, a building, a subdivision, a neighborhood, or the entire barangay. It has to be looked into what the granular data is presenting,” Año said.

Cimatu himself expressed hope there would be no need for the police or the Army for a ‘very forceful’ implementation of quarantine regulations.

He said many Cebuanos have complied with protocols and regulations set by the IATF, albeit citing the need to advise those who have not complied with the regulations to do so.

Duque, for his part, emphasized the need for local government units (LGUs) “to really drill down the importance of minimum public health standard,” including the wearing of face masks; frequent washing of the hands the right way for 20 seconds; cough etiquette using the crook of the elbow; and, using sodium hydrochloride to disinfect the inanimate objects, like the tables and chairs.

Assignment

In a briefing Monday night, Duterte expressed his disappointment over how the COVID-19 situation in Cebu is handled and how the Cebuanos, in general, responded to the crisis.

“Ang Cebu ang may problema ngayon. Alam mo, pag may problema, tapunan na yan, eh. If you solve the problem locally amongst the officials there, there’s bound to be derailment in the programs of the government because they would start to blame each other there and nobody would try to introduce novel ideas or even to implement one that is already measured or proven efficacy. Nagsisisihan na,” Duterte said.

LGU Reactions

Both Labella and Governor Gwendolyn Garcia said they are glad of Cimatu’s presence.

"Gen. Cimatu said during our meeting this morning that he is happy to be back in Cebu. And, my reply was likewise. We are also very happy that the President assigned Gen. Cimatu here in Cebu to help us," Labella said.

"Of course, we cannot question the wisdom of the President and reasons for his sending here Gen. Cimatu," he said.

Garcia, for her part, said Cimatu’s visit gave the province a chance to elucidate the national government further on the distinction between the COVID-19 situation in the province and Cebu City.

"The presence here now of Secretary Cimatu, Secretary Duque, Secretary Lorenzana, Secretary Año, and Secretary Galvez has given us the chance, we the Cebuanos – both the province and the city – to present a clearer picture of what the situation really is," she said.

"Furthermore, as governor, I believe it is my duty to emphasize that the situation in Cebu City may not exactly reflect what the situation is in the entire province,” she added.

Cebu City Vice Mayor Michael Rama, meanwhile, spoke on the supposed disunity in the city.

"Wa na tay mahimo kay that is already a President's IATF direction. However, had we been one, that we are orchestrated by one leader, we don't need any Cimatu and the group,” Rama said.

Discipline                

Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas (OPAV) Secretary Michael Lloyd Dino emphasized the importance of discipline at the barangay level to contain the virus, standing by earlier statement that Cebu is the most prepared in the country.

“Without discipline, no matter how the cities prepare, we will never be prepared as long as there is no discipline on the ground; zero, impossible,” Dino said.

Dino said that last March, Cebu had 50,000 reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (rt-PCR) test kits, personal protective equipment (PPEs), and enough nurses and hospitals. Aside from this, Cebu also prepared three quarantine centers – the Bayanihan Cebu Field Center at the Sacred Heart School; the Bayanihan IEC Field Center and the Cebu City Quarantine Center. All three facilities, which have a combined capacity of around 300, are now operational.  JMO (FREEMAN)

COVID-19 ROY CIMATU
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