Holistic approach for Cebu City

PERSPECTIVE - Cherry Piquero-Ballescas (The Freeman) - July 11, 2020 - 12:00am

In view of the increased deaths caused by COVID-19, problems about cremation (high costs and long queue) and burial are recent challenges for families. There is also the additional problem of a transit storage area for the dead before they can finally be scheduled for cremation.

Mandaue City posted the happy news that, while awaiting cremation and burial, a mortuary freezer van can now manage the dead bodies of COVID-19 victims.

According to a July 6 post of the Mandaue City Public Information Office, “the mortuary freezer van can accommodate 40 bodies and will be installed at the Mandaue City Hospital this week. The services for storing the bodies are given for FREE to Mandaue City residents on top of the FREE cremation services afforded to indigent Mandaue residents who succumb to COVID related illnesses.”

This is because “storage services in private hospitals can cost 1,000 to 5,000 pesos per day depending on the hospital, the Mandaue City government (resorted to these measures) in order to lessen the anguish and stress of Mandaue residents in looking for places to store the bodies of their dearly departed when they should be mourning for their dead.”

Mandaue City deserves to be commended for these mindful measures for the public as well as their systematic management of the COVID virus, to date.

Their Public Information Office (both on website and Facebook) presents updated COVID-19 data covering the city and all the barangays. Their website also has information about transparency, doing business the Sanggunian Panglungsod, and others --a laudable model that can be followed by other LGUs!

Their public information about “fever clinics” is complete with telephone numbers of focal persons per barangay. Among other appreciated information, those covering transport, procedures for returning overseas workers and locally-stranded individuals lend support to a comprehensive, holistic policy approach adopted and implemented in this city.

We hope and pray Mandaue City will continue taking proactive and positive measures to effectively protect/save lives and contain the virus. Their July 7 data showed 768 active cases, 1,169 confirmed cases, 376 recovered, and 25 dead.

Oh, if only Cebu City governance can be more holistic, inclusive, collaborative, participative, evidence-based, independent, and decisive, then so much more lives can be saved and the virus contained at the soonest time possible!

In response to the same challenge about how to mindfully and effectively manage those who died of COVID, Cebu City Councilor Dave Tumulak said that “we can't allow that those who died of COVID-19 won't be given a proper burial because they don't have money for cremation.”

Nobody will disagree with him about the importance of honoring the dead with a proper burial site.

However, DENR and many others disagree with the choice of the burial place, of the proposed cemetery, for COVID-19 fatalities in a protected area, within a watershed area, in Barangay Guba!

The DENR and many others also take issue with the steps taken for this burial space. For one, some 300 mahogany trees have been cut without permit, according to news reports. DENR-7 has ordered a halt to the construction work for this proposed cemetery.

Guba Barangay Captain Orlan Herrera reportedly said that” a public hearing was only held when the trees had been cut down.”

A holistic government policy would have carefully reviewed whether a new cemetery was needed for COVID-19 fatalities, where to construct this and what procedures to properly follow, respecting existing laws.

Or like Mandaue City, would a mortuary freezer van and free cremation services especially for the indigent suffice to mindfully honor the dead and their families?

Responses to varying COVID-19 problems should be holistic, sustainable, and comprehensively mindful and protective of both people and the environment.

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