In light of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) emergency in the country, Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go reiterated his push for a “Balik Probinsya” program to even out economic development and stimulate additional job creations in different regions of the country. He stressed the need to create livelihood opportunities in the countryside to encourage city dwellers and businesses to move to the provinces after the COVID-19 crisis.
“Kapag natapos na ang hirap na dinaranas natin dahil sa COVID-19, bigyan natin ng pag-asa ang mga Pilipino na makaahon at magkaroon ng pagkakataon ng mas magandang kinabukasan sa mga probinsya nila,” Go said reiterating President Rodrigo Duterte’s sentiments that there is a need to provide Filipinos with “hope” of a better tomorrow amid the adverse socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 health emergency.
“While we are doing our best to overcome this crisis, let us work together to assure Filipinos that there is hope of a better tomorrow after COVID-19. We can do this by providing them opportunities to rebuild their lives in their home provinces,” he added.
Go said that one of the first steps to motivate Filipinos to move back to the provinces is to address the lack of livelihood opportunities in the countryside by providing jobs and boosting rural development. He added that for decades, Filipinos move to Metro Manila to seek opportunities that are lacking in their hometowns.
The Senator lamented the current situation of those from provinces who moved to Metro Manila expecting a better future but ending up living in poorer conditions with no choice but to stay just to earn a living. He said that these settlers are faced with more problems as only low-paying jobs are available for them.
Go said that as early as now, preparations must be made for the implementation of a “Balik Probinsya” program as a tool to empower the countryside, decongest Metro Manila, and address the adverse socio-economic impact caused by COVID-19.
“Mahirap bumangon mula sa COVID-19 kung hahayaan pa rin nating magkumpol-kumpol ang mga tao sa Kamaynilaan at wala pa ring asensong mangyayari sa mga probinsya,” he said.
Following Go’s proposal, a virtual meeting was held this Monday with concerned government officials led by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea. Initial plans regarding short-term and long-term goals were discussed.
The Executive Secretary, with the help of the National Housing Authority and the National Economic and Development Authority, will initially lead the planning stages of the “Balik Probinsiya” program. Concerned agencies like the Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Agriculture, among others, will also be involved.
The government will initially prepare a plan to assist stranded workers in Metro Manila who wish to return to their home provinces once the enhanced community quarantine is lifted. The possible provision of transportation, food and financial assistance for these beneficiaries are being prepared.
Motivating city dwellers and incentivizing businesses to relocate to the provinces will be the long-term goal. Budgetary needs for existing programs of different agencies that can help promote the “Balik Probinsya” initiative will be identified in the planning stages.
Go said he will study possible legislative measures needed to support the “Balik Probinsya” initiatives. He further emphasized the need to develop the countryside consistent with the policy direction of President Duterte to create robust economic activities and wealth generation outside Metro Manila or other urban centers.
Meanwhile, DSWD Secretary Rolando Bautista expressed his support for the “Balik Probinsya” plan through a statement released earlier. He said that “economics (livelihood, employment, housing, food supply), socio cultural factors, religion, health, and sanitation facilities, education, training and skills to gain employment based on local employment and industry demands, law and order, wages and labor laws, among others have to be considered.”
On the part of the DSWD, Bautista said that social workers can do social case management on families willing to relocate. Sec. Bautista recommended a gradual moving out by phases depending on the capacity of the accepting local government units in order to be able to support and sustain the successful relocation of migrants from the National Capital Region./Stacy Ang