By Ben Rosario
Cavite Rep. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino on Thursday volunteered the Tagaytay City “Balik Probinsiya” program as a template for the implementation of a similar program among the country’s urban centers.
Tolentino, chairman of the House committee on accounts, said Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go is correct in calling for the swift implementation of a national Balik Probinsya program, saying that the timing has never been better.
“We need to strengthen agriculture and reduce unemployment rate in urban areas as soon as the enhanced community quarantine is lifted or relaxed,” said Tolentino.
The lawmaker recalled that in 2004, Tagaytay City launched a highly successful Balik Probinsya program that many urban poor settlers welcomed.
Then a city councilor, Tolention authored City Ordinance 2004-301 establishing the Balik Probinsya program that offered informal settlers in Tagaytay P50,000 financial assistance for them to return to their respective provinces.
Under the ordinance, voluntary recipients were to sign a contract with the city government that they will no longer return to Tagaytay, lest they be sued for breach of contract.
As further guarantee against recidivists, barangay units were directed to closely monitor their areas to prevent the return of new informal settlers.
Tolentino noted that in just a few months of implementation, most of the urban poor families agreed and took the offered cash support that will assist them in pursuing livelihood in their home provinces.
“This is one of the reasons why Tagaytay has lesser informal settlers now. The city government quickly recovered the money spent for the program because the tourism industry showed vast improvement,” said the senior administration solon.