CEBU, Philippines —  Secretary Roy Cimatu has a challenge to Cebu City residents after the city was placed under enhanced community quarantine for the third time: ECQ – End Cebu’s Quarantine.

“ECQ-End Cebu’s Quarantine. We have to end your quarantine already and I’m making this a message to all the Cebuanos. You help us end Cebu’s Quarantine,” Cimatu said during a virtual presser in Cebu yesterday, hours after the Inter-Agency Task Force decided to extend the city’s ECQ status.

Cimatu is assigned to oversee the government’s response to the COVID-19 situation in the city, particularly the implementation of ECQ protocols.

The good news, he said, is that behavior and attitude of locals have changed in the few days that the national government decided to augment local efforts in implementing the ECQ.

“Napansin namin in the second week ay nag-change kaagad ang image ng pag-comply ng mga Cebuanos. Ngayon, if you are there, makikita mo talagang very strict ang lockdown at the compliance ng mga tao; hindi na katulad noon. So yan siguro ang una. Second, ang kanilang compliance of the minimum health standards, sinusunod na rin nila yan,” Cimatu said.

(We notice that compliance of Cebuanos have changed in the second week. If you are there, you will see that the lockdown is very strict and, unlike before, people are complying. That’s the first. Secondly, they are also complying with minimum health standards.)

Around 2,000 additional police personnel from other police offices were deployed to Cebu City to help enforce the ECQ strictly. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) also sent a medical team.

Cimatu urged the barangays, Cebu City Health Department, and the Department of Health (DOH) – 7 to reconcile their data to avoid conflict, as well as to have a clearer picture of the situation for better responses moving forward, particularly in contact tracing, isolation, and treatment of patients.

Despite the positive numbers of recovery at the barangay isolation centers, Cimatu is bent on looking for other areas where asymptomatic patients can be housed to bring them away from the barangays. He has observed that the schools, which are converted into BICs temporarily, are located right in the middle of the barangay, at close proximity to residents.

Cimatu is also looking at the possibility of increasing the bed capacity of the NOAH Complex at the South Road Properties.

To decongest hospitals, some hotels are also being considered as recovery areas for those who are already recovering from COVID-19 but do not want to go home just yet.

Cebu City now stands as having the longest lockdown for a local government unit. Save for the time it transitioned to general community quarantine in the first half of June, it was placed under ECQ since March this year.

Cebu City is important

While President Rodrigo Duterte said he will not give preferential treatment to Cebu despite having won here during the elections – and did not hold back words in calling Cebuanos stubborn on livestream –  Secretary Vince Dizon said the presence of the national government in Cebu City shows how important the city is for the entire country.

He called on the residents to help government fight the virus and stop the contagion by abiding by quarantine and health rules.

“Let’s work together and beat COVID together. Every citizen has to do their part by following the rules,” Dizon said.

Dizon is deputy chief implementer of IATF.

DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III reminded residents to continue being mindful of minimum health standards such as ensuring cough etiquette, hand washing, and proper wearing of mask.

DIL Secretary Año said that people should continue to obey quarantine protocols to and should stay at home in order for us to prevail over this COVID-19 crisis.

City action

Mayor Edgardo Labella said they have organized 80 contact tracing teams after DOH has provided the city with additional testing kits.

“We have already started training our contact tracers because the more important aspect of fighting this is contact tracing, and, of course, after contact tracing, isolation and treatment. We are going in that direction,” Labella said.

Labella said one of the problems in regards to testing and contact tracing in the past was the delayed release of results due to lack of testing laboratories.

“There was a certain point in time that it took at least two weeks or even a month that the results of the testing and contact tracing were released in the previous set-up because of the lack of testing laboratories. But now that has been corrected already…in the new set-up, in a matter of 24 to 48 hours, the results are now released so that I think it’s more effective to prevent the spread of the disease,” Labella said.


While Cebu City remains under ECQ, its neighboring local government units are on GCQ and even modified GCQ.

Mandaue City, Lapu-Lapu City, Talisay City, Consolacion, and Minglanilla are on GCQ while the rest of Cebu Province is now under MGCQ.

Governor Gwendolyn Garcia said the province will now focus on reviving the tourism industry, which has been affected greatly by the shutdowns, as well as in introducing the Enhanced Countryside Development (ECD) program.

“We will focus now on the resumption of our tourism industry,” she said, emphasizing that reopening of attractions like whale watching, canyoonering, and thresher shark watching, among others, will be under very strict health protocols.

Meanwhile, the ECD is geared toward agricultural production and in providing opportunity for residents to earn in their LGU. Among the first targets of the programs is corn production to utilize the 12 to 14 feed mills in the province, and production of cassava, vegetables, and herbs.

“And I have been repeating this: We must focus on boosting our immune system and we are encouraging people to plant calamansi, turmeric, and ginger because these can be easily availed of and taken as a preventive measure against disease, particularly COVID-19,” Garcia said.

“If there is anything this quarantine or lockdown has taught us, it is that Cebu is not self-sufficient in food,” she added.

Cebu Province has 44 towns and six component cities.  JMO (FREEMAN)



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