By Mario Casayuran
Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go said today (April 24) that the national government should learn from the experiences encountered during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis in order to provide long-term solutions that would put a stop to the current public health emergency and avoid the further spread of such diseases in the future.
“Habang patuloy nating nilalabanan ang COVID-19, paghandaan na natin sa ngayon pa lang ang ‘new normal’. I-tama na natin ang mga mali para hindi na maulit ang mga problema at maging mas handa tayo sa anumang krisis,‘’Go said. (While we continue to fight the COVID-19, we should prepare now for the ‘new normal’. We will correct all the mistakes to avoid the recurrence of the problems and to make us more prepared for whatever crisis in the future.)
Go, chairman of the Senate health and demography committee, reiterated his appeal for the government to prepare for the implementation of a “Balik Probinsya” (Back to the Province) program at the right time.
Implementation of the program would be determined by health experts when the spread of COVID-19 is already under control or when “we have already flattened the curve,’’ he explained.
“Nananawagan ako sa pamahalaan na mag-umpisa nang maglatag ng programang ‘Balik Probinsya’ at iba pang mga hakbang na magbibigay insentibo sa ating mga kababayan na lumipat na ulit sa kanilang mga probinsya,’’ he added. (I am calling on the government to start laying down the ‘Balik Probinsya’ program and other steps that wil provide incentives to our countrymen to be relocated to their respective provinces.)
“Kami po ni Pangulong Duterte ay probinsiyano rin. Taga-Davao po kami. Doon po kami lumaki at, tulad ng ibang mga probinsyano, doon rin namin nais bumalik pagkatapos ng aming pagseserbisyo sa bayan,’’ he added. (I and President Duterte are from the provinces too. We are from Davao where we intend to go back to after we have completed our work, that is serving the people.)
Go said that this move would mitigate and resolve long-standing issues in urban areas, especially densely-populated Metro Manila.
These tightly-packed communities help in the fast spread of diseases, have poor sanitation facilities, overburdened health care facilities and inefficiencies in the delivery of services, he observed.
“Malaking factor po sa mabilis na pagkalat ng COVID-19 sa Metro Manila ay ang congestion o overcrowding dito. Ginagawa natin ang lahat para malampasan natin itong krisis ngunit number one na problema talaga natin sa implementasyon ng ating mga assistance programs ay ang congestion sa Metro Manila,’’ Go said. (Congestion or overcrowding is a big factor for the fast spread of the COVID-19 in Metro Manila. We will do everything to overcome this crisis but the number one problem in the implementation of our assistance programs is the congestion in Metro Manila.)
“Maraming tao rito kaya naman mabilis kumalat ang virus, mas mahirap alagaan ang mga komunidad, at mas mahirap e-manage ang ating resources na maaaring magamit ng ating local government units,’’ he added. (There are many people here and this is the reason for the fast spread of the virus, it’s hard to take care of the communities, and it is hard to manage our resources that could be utilized by our local government units.).
With the proposed “Balik Probinsya” program, Go noted that the government could facilitate the decongestion of the metropolis, which would eventually help solve perennial issues of overpopulation, heavy traffic, pollution, as well as in preparing for future possible disease outbreaks, other crises and natural disasters.
The senator from Mindanao said that the proposal would reunite families that have been separated for a long time due to jobs that require employees to relocate to business districts
According to Go, bringing families back together in one location could make it easier for the government to implement social amelioration programs considering family units would be located in the same local jurisdictions.
“Tulad po ng mga nangyayari ngayon, napakahirap mag-abot ng tulong dahil ‘yung mga beneficiaries po ng social amelioration program… minsan ay may nakakatanggap sa probinsya na pamilya pero ‘yung mga asawa o isang miyembro ay hindi nakakatanggap dito (sa Maynila) dahil magkahiwalay sila (ng lokasyon,’’ Go said. (Just like what is happening now, it is very hard to distribute assistance because the beneficiaries of the social amelioration program…sometimes the family in the province receives it, but the husband or other members of the family who are in Manila fail to get it because they are not staying together.)
According to Go, once this proposal becomes a national priority, its implementation would result to a more efficient delivery of public goods and services that can benefit all regions and would also lead to equitable development all throughout the country.
“Marami na tayong natututunan sa krisis na ito, tulad ng hirap na dulot ng pagkakumpol kumpol ng tao sa mga siyudad. Simulan na nating paghandaan at tuluyan na nating aksyunan ang isyu na ito at huwag nang intayin na mas lumala pa ang problema,’’ he added. (We have learned so many things from this crisis, such as the problems that resulted from the congestion of people in the cities. Let us prepare and act on this issue and not wait for the problem to worsen.)
As soon as the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) is lifted and travel is gradually normalized, Go said that the government must be ready to provide the public with the means and incentives to go back to the provinces for good.
Go also appealed to businesses and investors to support the proposal by building factories and providing livelihood opportunities in the provinces.
He emphasized that investments in the countryside will provide opportunities to more Filipinos, hence attracting them to eventually go home. This, he said, would also lead to rural development.
“Sa mga negosyante po, sana ay magbukas kayo ng mga factory, planta, o ano pa mang job opportunities sa mga kababayan nating Pilipino na gusto na pong manatili sa kanilang mga probinsya,’’ he said. (To the businessmen, I hope you will open factories, plants and any other job generating opportunities to our fellow Filipinos who want to stay in their respective provinces.)
“Magtulungan at magbayanihan po tayo para malampasan ang krisis na ito. Sa bawat problema nating hinaharap, oportunidad rin ito na magkaroon ng mas maayos at mas matatag na bansa,’’ he stressed. (Let us help one another so we could overcome this crisis. For every problem we face, is also an opportunity to call for a more orderly and more stable nation.)