Espinoza: Better establish a cremation center

Free Zone

SO, THE Cebu City Government could not proceed with its cemetery project in Sapangdaku, Guadalupe after the Department of Health (DOH)-Central Visayas objected to its location. This urgent cemetery project was hatched by the city officials during this Covid-19 pandemic when several victims of the virus could not afford the cost of the cremation offered by the funeral homes.

It's really unusual to hear that the DOH opposed the project even after the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)-Central Visayas approved the location. To recall, DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu approved the site after he personally inspected the place together with Mayor Edgar Labella and other city officials.

DOH-Central Visayas spokesperson Mary Jean Loreche said their office will not issue the notice to proceed because the project site is located near the river and is prone to landslide. Isn't this the work of the DENR through the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) and the Mines Geosciences Bureau (MGB) to determine if the area is safe or not?

"The reason for the non-endorsement of the cemetery from the DOH standpoint is its non-suitability," Loreche told the press. But if the real reason is about sanitation, I think the DOH should have not talked about landslide so they would not sound nauseous when its real basis is that the location is not suited for the burial grounds apropos to the provisions of the Sanitation Code of the Philippines (PD 856).

Mayor Labella intends to meet and further discuss the issue with the officials of the DOH and the DENR. I doubt if the DOH officials would change their position. The DENR, on the other hand, could not issue the permits for the cutting of the trees and earth moving, as among the requirements, without the needed approval of the DOH.

Just my outlandish thought. If I were Mayor Labella, I would not proceed with the burial grounds project not because the DOH has objected to it, but we need more open spaces now especially that real properties in the urban areas are getting scarce and prices are soaring high.

The better option for the city, if I may suggest, is to purchase a cremation equipment if the acquisition cost would not be much different from opening and operating the burial grounds. The cremation center could be built in the city's property that is within the urban center. Certainly, I'm not an engineer, but from my estimate, the city would only need an area of 500 to 1,000 square meters for the building of the cremation equipment. The best location is SRP, which is very accessible.

Instead of asking for a reconsideration from the DOH-Central Visayas, Mayor Labella should instead discuss with the vice mayor and the city councilors of another option, that is buying the cremation equipment and establishing it in SRP. The cremation would not only serve the deserving indigents but it would also compete with those offered by the funeral homes that would perhaps compel them to lower their rates. Under the Local Government Code, the city can establish economic enterprises.

The city could even offer the cremation services to well-to-do residents and non-residents for a fee, whose rates should be lower than the funeral homes. Imagine that during this pandemic, the cremation rate has tremendously increased after the DOH issued a protocol that Covid-19 victims should be cremated. If I get it correctly, what used to be P50,000 before it is now P100,000 and the waiting time is about a week that some hospitals have to provide a refrigerated van to store the cadavers before cremation.


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