DOH-Central Visayas 'won't endorse' Cebu City's cemetery project

INSPECTION. On July 20, 2020, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu (left), Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella (right) and other officials went to Barangay Sapangdaku to inspect the site of the proposed two-hectare cemetery for city residents who succumbed to the novel coronavirus. (CONTRIBUTED DENR 7)

THE Department of Health (DOH) 7 has put its foot down on the Cebu City Government’s proposal to establish a cemetery in the mountain barangay of Sapangdaku.

This was confirmed by Eddie Llamedo, chief of the Planning and Management Division of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) 7.

Mary Jean Loreche, DOH 7 spokesperson, said the agency will not issue a notice to proceed because the project site is located near a river and is prone to landslide.

“The reason for the non-endorsement of the cemetery from the DOH standpoint is its non-suitability,” Loreche said.

The project needs the DOH to issue an initial clearance for the construction to proceed since it involves a cemetery. This is pursuant to the Sanitation Code of the Philippines, or Presidential Decree (PD) 856.

Last July, Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu approved the site for the cemetery in Sitios Yuta and Baksan after inspecting the area.

On Aug. 26, 2020, the DOH 7 submitted a site suitability report to the City Government.

The agency said the proposed site in Sapangdaku was not suitable for the establishment of burial grounds based on the standard sanitary survey pursuant to Chapter 21, or the Disposal of Dead Persons, of PD 856.

The DENR 7 wrote the City to submit requirements, but it has yet to receive a reply, Llamedo said in a text message to SunStar Cebu on Monday, Sept. 21, 2020.

Llamedo said the DENR 7 is willing to provide the necessary support for the project to push through. But unless the City submits all the requirements, the DENR 7 cannot issue a special land use permit, a tree cutting permit and an environment compliance certificate (ECC), he said

Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella, in a separate interview, said he will meet with officials of the DOH 7, the DENR 7 and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) 7 to discuss the project.

Labella agreed that there is a need to transfer the site, saying there are other areas where the City can set up a cemetery, but most of these are located in mountain barangays.

“There are many alternative sites,” he said.

The original site for the project was a five-hectare lot in Sitio Katives in Barangay Guba, which is part of the Cebu Protected Landscape Area.

The City received some flak when it proceeded to cut down 300 mahogany trees on the site to pave the way for the project without a cutting permit.

The City needed to address the congestion in cemeteries when the number of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) deaths rose exponentially in July and considered the establishment of a new public cemetery urgent.

Cebu City is home to 15 cemeteries that are either private or run by the Roman Catholic Church. The City Government has no cemetery of its own. (JJL)


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