By Genalyn Kabiling
President Duterte has endorsed the proposed “Balik-Probinsya” (back to the province) program and directed authorities to extend transportation aid to people willing to move out of Metro Manila once the quarantine measures are lifted.
The proposed relocation of people from congested urban centers to their home provinces is a good idea since it will bring a sense of hope amid the pandemic, according to the President.
Senator Christopher Go earlier appealed to government to provide incentives and livelihood assistance to people who want to return to provinces as soon as it lifts the quarantine measures due to the coronavirus outbreak. The proposal seeks to decongest Metro Manila and other urban areas as the government struggles to curb the spread of the disease.
“Maganda ‘yan Bong (That’s good, Bong). Go home to the province. They have the means of going back there. There is a promise kasi kung what you would give them is hope. Importante yan (That’s important),” the President said during his public remarks aired on state television Friday morning.
“If they go there, some of them might really leave the city of Manila or its environs with a heavy heart but we have to provide transportation. What is important is we give them hope,” he said during the meeting with the government task force on the coronavirus response last Thursday.
Prior to the President’s remarks, Go urged the government to consider the “Balik Probinsya program” in the preparations for the “new normal” arising from the pandemic.
He noted that the congestion of Metro Manila and other urban centers has led to the fast spread of the coronavirus and slowed down the distribution of relief aid to affected communities.
“As soon as the enhanced community quarantine is lifted and travel is gradually normalized, the government must encourage Filipino families to move out of Metro Manila and other metropolitan areas,” Go said during the meeting with the President.
“Government must provide them with means and incentives to go back to the provinces for good,” he added.
The President’s former assistant also asked local government units to establish adequate quarantine measures and mass testing to prevent those possibly infected from spreading the disease.
He also pushed for the capacity enhancement of local government units to meet the food, housing, livelihood requirements of people returning to the provinces. He said promoting rural development will help discourage others from leaving the provinces to find employment elsewhere.
“Ilipat natin ang mga tao sa tamang panahon at kapag sinabi na ng ating health experts na ligtas na gawin ito pero ngayon pa lang kailangan ihanda na natin ang ating mga probinsiya (We will relocate the people at the right time and once the health experts declare it is safe to do it. But for now, we must prepare our provinces),” he said.
“Mapapagaan din natin ang pinapasan ng mga syudad kapag nabawasan ang tao sa mga lugar nila (We will ease the burden of cities if the number of people will be reduced),” he added.
In the same meeting, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez also expressed support for the Balik Probinsiya program proposed by Go.
To promote investments in the countryside, Lopez said trade department would give more incentives for business activities in the provinces and generate employment. “We can give more incentives papunta sa probinsya kaysa sa maglo-locate sa Metro Manila. Ibig sabihin more attraction to locate outside. Kapag nandoon na incentives, may trabaho na doon,” he said.
Lopez said the government will also provide financial assistance to people interested in starting their small businesses in the provinces.
The President has decided to extend the enhanced community quarantine in Metro Manila and other high-risk areas until May 15 to contain the coronavirus outbreak. Duterte asked the public to bear with the prolonged quarantine restrictions for protection against the coronavirus.
“We are just waiting for the right time. Tiisin na muna natin. Ako nakikiusap na sa inyo para ito sa bayan (Let us bear with it. I appealing to you. This is for the country. We are trying to limit the contamination,” he said.