News Release

President Duterte orders Cimatu to lead Cebu coronavirus fight

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte holds a meeting with members of the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) at the Malago Clubhouse in Malacañang on June 22, 2020. ROBINSON NIÑAL JR./PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on Monday, June 22, has ordered Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu to oversee government efforts in containing the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Cebu, which has seen continued increases in the number of infections.

President Duterte said in a public address that he needed to deploy someone capable of handling the crisis situation believing Cimatu could get the job done.

The President expressed his dismay over the chaotic response of Cebu local officials, which compromises public interest.

“So kayong mga taga-Cebu, it’s not that I do not trust your ability but rather I said it’s the penchant to go into a sort of a ‘yang sisihan nga tapos nobody would answer for anything. To my brothers and sisters in Cebu, both in the city and the provinces, I will send over General Cimatu,” he said.

“So he will exercise all the powers of that body upon notifying General Lorenzana who heads the agency. 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.”

Cimatu’s task is to assess the situation in Cebu, identify the problem and make recommendations for an effective government response, the President said.

To contain the outbreak in Cebu, President Duterte also ordered the Department of Health (DOH), Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the National Task Force to assist Cimatu.

“At saka ‘yung kung talagang may i-lockdown man, uniformed talaga and this has to be enforced by the police. Kung magkulang ng tao, then Secretary Cimatu has the liberty of calling upon the military guys to help,” he said.

Cimatu, a former military officer, said he was honored to be able to help others and save lives.

“I fully accept your challenge you gave for Cebu, Mr. President. Just like the orders you gave to me before to go to Boracay and we changed the cesspool image sa Boracay into what it is now,” he told the President.

“Senator Bong 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,” he added.

As of June 21, Cebu City has 3,733 COVID-19 cases, the highest number of infections nationwide, according to the DOH. PND