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Duterte orders Cimatu to oversee Covid-19 response in Cebu City

President Rodrigo Duterte and Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu

MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu to fly to Cebu City to oversee the measures against the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic as cases in the area soared to 4,449 on Monday.

In a public address late Monday night, Duterte said he will issue an Executive Order to formalize Cimatu’s role.

“To my brothers and sisters in Cebu, both in the city and the provinces, I will send over General Cimatu. General Cimatu is the Secretary of [the Department of Environment and Natural Resources],” he said mostly in Bisaya.

He said Cimatu would have an adjunct office under the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) and would be allowed to exercise all the body’s powers.

“All he has to do not for permission but just to advise Manila here that these things are being done, these things are not yet done and these things must be done,” he added.

According to Duterte, Cimatu could either choose to stay in Cebu City or fly back immediately after giving him a “picture of how grave the situation is”.

He said Cimatu would make recommendations on steps to be taken to contain the spread of the virus in Cebu City.

“I am sure Cimatu… He cannot solve the problem on his own. He has just to make recommendations and let us know what we should be doing and that is very important. It’s part really of the intelligence work of any organization to know what is ahead and behind and on the side so that you’d know how to prepare and go and fight the enemy — Covid,” he said.

He called on the Department of Health, Department of the Interior and Local Government, and the National Task Force to assist Cimatu.

Cimatu also has the liberty of calling upon the military guys to help, he added.

Cimatu, who was also present during the televised meeting with members of the IATF, accepted Duterte’s assignment and vowed to do his best.

“I fully accept your challenge you gave for Cebu, Mr. President,” he said. “Going to Cebu, Senator [Christopher] Bong [Go] talked to me and I said this is really an honor for me because probably this is fate or destiny, Mr. President, to be doing things to save the lives of some people in Cebu at this time of pandemic.”

Should there be another similar health crisis in the future, Cimatu said future generations would be looking at how the Duterte administration handled the situation.

“I was also thinking, Mr. President, that the next generation will be looking at this again, at what transpired during this pandemic, and the approaches that we are doing now will be again probably reviewed by the next generation whether we did it right or we didn’t,” he added.

Blame game

Without dropping names, Duterte said his decision to assign Cimatu in Cebu City was because local executives were blaming each other for the increase in Covid-19 cases in the area.

“I know that there is someone who oversees the situation in Cebu because in Cebu people are pointing fingers at each other, there are people who cast blame, people who disagree, people who are jealous. That’s it. So that’s the — the problem there. But I am not referring to any particular person. I am just sad that Cebu has to undergo that kind of painful situation now,” he said.

He noted that there was bound to be a derailment of programs when officials started pointing fingers at each other.

“It’s not that I do not trust your ability but rather I said it’s the penchant to go into a sort of blame each other and then nobody would answer for anything,” he said.

The problem would not have worsened, Duterte said, had local officials properly implemented quarantine protocols prepared by the IATF.

“Why are there many cases? Because you were too confident and too complacent about it. It’s as if you ignored it, and it came,” he said.

Duterte urged local officials to stop the blame game and instead enforce the guidelines to prevent a further increase in the number of Covid-19 cases.

“There were rules imposed hoping that at least not everybody but a majority will honor at least rules and regulations promulgated by government for your own good,” he added.

Cebu City was reverted to enhanced community quarantine, the strictest level of community quarantine, due to the rise in new Covid-19 cases.

Meanwhile, the entire province of Cebu was placed under the general community quarantine. (PNA)

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