Illegal settlements pose challenge to Cebu City coronavirus fight: mayor

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 26 2020 09:05 AM | Updated as of Jun 26 2020 09:35 AM

A police officer mans a checkpoint along a road in Cebu City, central Philippines on June 24, 2020, after the government tightened its enhanced community quarantine restrictions as COVID-19 infections increase. Photo by Alex Badayos, AFP

MANILA — Illegal settlements pose a big challenge to Cebu City's efforts to contain the coronavirus outbreak, Mayor Edgardo Labella said Friday, following a spike of the disease that prompted a return of the strictest lockdown level there.

The city of about 1 million people so far confirmed 4,000 cases of the disease. Illegal settlements in Barangay Mambaling accounted for 300 cases of which 19 were still active, while Barangay Luz had for 200 cases, with 12 still active, said Labella.

"Isa talagang malaking problema, this was revealed to us by our barangay captains... marami talagang squatters' area, informal settlers. Because of government neglect for so many decades, napabayaan iyong housing program ng mga tao dito," he told ABS-CBN News' TeleRadyo.

(A big problem, which was revealed to us by our barangay captains, is that there are many squatters' area, informal settlers. Because of government neglect for so many decades, the housing program for the people here were not prioritized.)

"Ang hirap talagang i-implement [ng coronavirus protocols] because ang houses, ang nag-separate mga walls lang. Saka iyong mga tirahan nila, d'yan na sila natutulog, d'yan na sila nagluluto... sa liit saka sikip," he added.

(It's hard to implement the coronavirus protocols because the houses are only separated by a wall. The houses only have one area for sleeping, cooking. They're small and cramped.

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A first-term mayor elected last year, Labella said the coronavirus pandemic halted his project to build 10 tenements for illegal settlers. The city so far completed 3 buildings that can house 100 families each.

To contain the contagion, local officials suspended the passes that allowed 250,000 residents or about a fourth of its population to venture out of their homes.

Authorities will release new passes with owners' name and address so authorities can verify these, said Labella.

Police and military will also keep watch over 12 sitios with the most COVID-19 cases, he said.