Barangay or sitio-level lockdown eyed in 12 Cebu City villages

AUTHORITIES are still evaluating the implementation of barangay-wide and granular lockdowns in 12 barangays in Cebu City.

The Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) led by Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu and the Department of Health (DOH) 7, the Cebu City Health Department (CHD) and the Cebu City Government are looking at placing Barangays Sambag 2 and Kamputhaw on barangay-wide lockdown.

They are also studying to place Barangays Sambag 1, Basak San Nicolas, Mabolo, Guadalupe, Lahug, Duljo Fatima, Tinago, Tisa, Ermita and Tejero on sitio-level, or granular lockdown.

Rey Gealon, Mayor Edgardo Labella’s spokesman, said these barangays have the highest number of active coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases that need to be contained.

In the data provided by the City Hall, the number of active Covid-19 cases in these barangays as of Thursday, June 25, 2020, are 128 in Sambag 2, 123 in Kamputhaw, 109 in Sambag 1, 104 in Basak San Nicolas, 82 in Mabolo, 79 in Guadalupe, 78 in Lahug, 77 in Duljo Fatima, 67 in Tinago, 65 in Tisa and 45 each in Ermita and Tejero.

“Hantud niining taknaa, nagtuon pa ang DOH, CHD, IATF, kung unsa’ng paagiha ma-contain ang virus niining mga barangays nga daghang natala nga positibo sa Covid-19 (Up to now, the DOH, CHD and the IATF are still studying how to contain the virus in these barangays),” said Gealon during the virtual presser Thursday afternoon.

Gealon said this means more police and military personnel will be deployed to these barangays to strictly enforce enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) protocol.

Unsynchronized data

Sambag 2 Barangay Captain Ryan Aznar said he is willing to heed the decision of the IATF to lock down his barangay, but the matter was not discussed during their meeting with the IATF and other health and city officials.

Aznar pointed out that Sambag 2 has only 75 active cases. He said he already talked with CHD officials so they could synchronize their data.

“Well, we have to adhere to the decision of the task force, but during our meeting earlier, no lockdown was discussed,” he said.

He said Police Regional Office (PRO) 7 Director Ignatius Ferro assured him barangay residents could still go out to buy essential goods. “They only need to ask police authorities.”

SAF deployment

Cimatu, in his press conference with Manila media Thursday morning, said 160 personnel of the Special Action Force (SAF) will be deployed to Cebu City to augment personnel of the Philippine National Police (PNP).

This was confirmed by Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, Joint Task Force (JTF) Covid Shield commander and PNP deputy chief for operations.

He said the SAF is necessary to compel residents to stay at home and follow quarantine protocol.

“During a visit in Cebu City, officials of the IATF and the National Task Force Against Covid-19 observed that local residents are not strictly following quarantine rules as they saw people going out of their homes not wearing face masks and not observing the physical distancing,” he said.

Eleazar said he will send three senior officers from the PNP’s Directorate for Integrated Police Operations-Visayas and PNP Directorate for Operations to Cebu City to facilitate the coordination among the police personnel on the ground, the JTF leadership and PNP national leadership.

Eleazar said they have coordinated with the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for the deployment of SAF personnel and their mobility assets, such as armored vehicles to be used during their operations in the city.

Effective

The JTF Covid Shield, which serves as the lead implementer of the IATF’s quarantine protocol, includes the AFP, the Bureau of Fire Protection and the PCG.

Eleazar said AFP Central Command (CentCom) Chief Roberto Ancan has committed to deploy more personnel to assist police.

“The CentCom is also using their air assets over Cebu City to check on observance of physical distancing,” he said.

Eleazar said the deployment of SAF has been proven effective in forcing residents of Metro Manila since the third week of April to stay home and obey quarantine protocol.

Earlier, he said the deployment of SAF and soldiers in several areas in Metro Manila resulted in a “steep” decrease in the number of ECQ violators.

“SAF commandos are known to be strict in enforcing the quarantine rules which subsequently compelled hardheaded residents to stay in their houses,” he said.

SAF Director Amando Clifton Empiso, for his part, expressed confidence that his men would duplicate their success in ECQ implementation in Metro Manila in Cebu City.

He said the SAF deployment is necessary to help contain the spread of Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.

This means the stay-at-home order will be strictly enforced, only allowing essential workers and authorized person outside residence (Apor) to go outside, Gealon said.

If a total lockdown is implemented in an area, Gealon assured that the City Government will provide affected residents with food and other necessities.

He said the City will distribute rice, medicines and water to residents in areas that will be placed on barangay-wide or sitio-level lockdown.

The City Council recently approved the use of P500 million to purchase goods for affected residents.

Locally stranded individuals (LSIs) can avail themselves of cash aid through the Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

The applicant has to secure a valid identification card while the other requirements will depend on the reason of their application.

Gealon urged LSIs to coordinate with the village chief of the barangay where they are staying so they can start the 14-day quarantine.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) 7 temporarily banned the travel of LSIs going to and from Cebu City last week as the city is still on ECQ.

In a separate interview, DILG Cebu City head Ian Kenneth Lucero said there were 16,292 LSIs in 72 barangays as of June 25.

Lucero said Cimatu advised the City to place all LSIs in quarantine facilities so processing their documents will be easy when they are cleared to travel.

Lucero said only Barangays Calamba, Inayawan, Mabolo, Pahina San Nicolas, Pamutan, Pung-ol Sibugay, Sudlon 2 and Tisa have yet to submit a list of LSIs in their areas to his office.

Labella ‘in control’

Meanwhile, the City will start distributing around 100,000 QR-coded quarantine passes on Friday, June 26.

Barangay officials will distribute the passes with the help of police and military personnel who will serve as “check and balance.”

The latter will ensure that only one pass will be distributed to one household, Labella said.

The City had issued 250,000 ECQ passes in March.

On Tuesday night, June 23, the PNP issued a memorandum canceling the validity of the passes. Labella had said this was pursuant to a DILG recommendation.

Maj. Gen. Melquiades Feliciano said the city has only around 99,000 households.

Gealon reiterated that residents can only use QR-coded passes for essential errands and not for leisure.

He also said there is “no overlapping of jobs” in the city and Labella remains in control of decisions, emphasizing that “no takeover is happening.”

“The mayor has the final say on the IATF recommendation... the mayor is on top of the situation,” Gealon said in a mix of Cebuano and English. (JJL, PAC, SunStar Philippines)