By Mario Casayuran
Senator Christopher Lawrence ‘’Bong’’ Go has urged the national government and local government units (LGUs) to begin drawing up attractive trade and industry policies in preparation for the ‘’Balik sa Probinsya’’ (Back to the Province) program (BPP) to be implemented after the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak.
These roadmaps should entice stakeholders and investors to start businesses in the provinces to support his “Balik Probinsya” program in a bid to decongest the densely populated Metro Manila area where the implementation of the ‘’enhanced community quarantine’’ (ECQ) faces challenges because of overcrowding, Go, chairman of the Senate health and demography committee, said.
“Habang patuloy nating nilalabanan ang COVID-19, pinaghahandaan na rin natin ang ‘new normal’ kung saan kaya nating harapin ang epekto ng krisis na ito sa ekonomiya at sa pang-araw araw natin na buhay. Nais nating siguraduhin na makakaahon ang bansa at magiging mas handa sa anumang krisis na darating,” Go said. (While we fight COVID-19, we should also to take steps toward a ‘’new normal’’ while we try to shake off the negative effects of the health crisis on the economy and our daily lives. We want to make the country overcome the health emergency and be prepared for future crises.’’
According to Go, motivating city dwellers and incentivizing businesses to relocate to the provinces would be the long-term goal.
Key programs of different agencies that can help promote the “Balik Probinsya” initiative must be identified and prioritized, he added.
“Bukod sa gusto nating umuwi sa probinsya ang mga Pilipino mula sa mga siyudad, tulad ng Metro Manila, isa sa mga layunin ng proposed na ‘Balik Probinsya’ program ang pagsigurong handa at kaaya-aya ang mga probinsya para sa mga bagong negosyong ipapatayo ng mga mamumuhunan,” Go said. (While we want Filipinos go back from crowded cities to the provinces, like Metro Manila, environments in these provinces must be made acceptable and enjoyable to investors or businessmen.)
Go said that the policies might complement the objectives of the proposed Corporate Income Tax and Incentives Rationalization Act, or the CITIRA bill, now pending in the Senate.
The bill, which seeks to reform the corporate income tax and incentives system in the country, will provide a fair ground of tax collection and incentive for urban and rural areas, and benefit local and rural communities with the new investments coming in.
The measure is primarily authored by Senator Pia S. Cayetano, chairwoman of the Senate ways and means committee, and was certified as urgent by President Rodrigo Duterte last March.
Acting National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) Director-General and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua said that the grant of tax incentives could be more targeted to the provinces since the present system grants the same incentives regardless of the location of a business in the country.
Go also encouraged government agencies to determine skills that squarely match the requirements of the new businesses to be put up. He suggested that a specialized Balik Probinsya jobs fair may also be organized with skills and job matching between BPP beneficiaries and new investors.
“We need to scale up our policies to the standard that it will also be fair for both investors and the community. I ask the concerned government agencies, such as DSWD (Department of Social and Welfare Development), CHED (Commission on Higher Education) and TESDA (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority) to map out the skills of proposed BPP beneficiaries in order to match them with possible investors,” Go highlighted.
With the plan, Go hopes that Filipinos would not have to leave the countryside and be separated from their families as job opportunities are created right in their localities.
Government agencies and leaders from the private sector have recently signified their support to the proposed “Balik Probinsya” program.