Sotto says Cebuano official should be in Cebu City COVID-19 task force

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 30 2020 06:27 PM

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 increased. Alex Badayos, AFP

MANILA - Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Tuesday said a Cebuano official should be included in the task force that oversees the containment of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Cebu City, the Philippines' new epicenter of the outbreak.

Cebuanos tend to be "aloof" towards those from Metro Manila, said Sotto, whose father hails from Cebu.

"'Pag galing sa Maynila ang pinadala mo at nag-uutos doon, medyo nakataas ang kilay namin... Pero pagka taga-doon sa kanila, baka mas madaling tanggapin," the Senate President said in an online press conference.

(If you send someone from Manila to give the orders, we raise our eyebrows... But if the official is from there, that might be easier for them to accept.)

Sotto clarified that he is not calling for the replacement of Environment Sec. Roy Cimatu, who heads the national government's COVID-19 response efforts in Cebu City.

"Okay si Gen. Cimatu (Gen. Cimatu is OK). What I mean is there must be a representative from Cebu," he said.

"Dapat mayroon ding taga-Cebu na counterpart o katulong na nakakaalam at may maitutulong," he said.

(There should be someone from Cebu as a counterpart who has knowledge and could help.)

Former Cebu City Councilor Erik Espina may be a good inclusion to Cimatu's team, Sotto said.

"He used to be a councilor. He is a general in the Reserve Force. He is a full-blooded Cebuano. He knows the terrain," the lawmaker said.

The national government has given Cebu City special attention as the number of COVID-19 cases in the Central Philippines' business and tourism hub continued to increase.

Cebu City currently has the highest number of COVID-19 infections among cities across the Philippines, with 4,639 cases as of June 30. 

Over the weekend, Environment Undersecretary Benny Antiporda, who spoke on behalf of Cebu coronavirus management overseer Cimatu, said the official noted a lack of coordination among government officials in the implementation of COVID-19 measures in Cebu City.

"Walang coordination, walang buong pagkilos from the barangay level to the local government units to the provincial government," Antiporda said, in response to a question on what political issues Cimatu is fixing in Cebu. 

(There are no definite political issues on the situation in Cebu but there is a lack of coordination. No collective action from the barangay level to the local government units to the provincial government.) 

On June 16, President Rodrigo Duterte placed the city back under enhanced community quarantine, the strictest lockdown level, amid the soaring number of COVID-19 cases, after two weeks under general quarantine.