By Mario Casayuran
Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go on Wednesday urged the government to attract more foreign businesses to invest in the country, particularly in less developed regions, as international companies are planning to shift supply chains to cheaper job markets while the dreaded coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is on a global warpath.
Go, chairman of the Senate Health and Demography Committee, said that the move will support the long-term plan for the implementation of the “Balik Probinsya” (Back to the Province) program (BPP) after the country overcomes the COVID-19 crisis.
Senator Imee R. Marcos had earlier alerted the Duterte government to undertake measures designed to entice foreign businesses that are planning to leave China for better business atmosphere as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak,
“Dahil po sa problemang dulot ng COVID-19 sa iba’t ibang bansa sa mundo, marami pong mga negosyo ang nagnanais pumunta sa mga bansang may mas murang production costs at skilled workforce,” Go said. (Because of the COVID-19 affecting most countries, there are many businesses wanting to shift to countries with cheap production costs and have skilled workforce.)
“Oportunidad rin ito para sa Pilipinas upang mahikayat ang mga negosyo na dito na lamang mamuhunan sa ating mga probinsya sa Pilipinas. Magiging daan din po ito upang makapaghanda tayo sa implementasyon ng ‘Balik Probinsiya’ program at mapalakas ang regional development,” he added. (This is an opportune time for the Philippines to entice foreigners to invest in the country. This will pave the way for the implementation of the ‘Balik Probinsya’’ program and strengthen regional development.)
Go explained that companies that will invest in the provinces can create jobs for Filipinos in the countryside, diminishing their need to go to Metro Manila to seek better job opportunities.
He said one of the aims of the ‘’Balik Probinsya’’ program is to create business opportunities in the provinces.
Go said he believes that there is a need to improve the present tax and incentives system in the country in order to balance tax collection and incentives for urban and rural areas, eventually benefiting communities in the countries because of fresh investments coming in.
Acting National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Director-General and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua had 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.
By giving more incentives for new business in the countryside, Chua believes that investors can invest outside of Metro Manila and other metropolitan areas.
Department of Finance (DOF) Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and Chua believe that the passage of Senate Bill 1357, the Corporate Income Tax and Incentives Rationalization Act (CITIRA), will reinforce the “Balik Probinsya” program where more incentives will be given to business in the provinces.
The bill is primarily authored by Senator Pia Cayetano and was certified as urgent by President Rodrigo Duterte last March.
“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 Welfare and Development), DTI (Department of Trade and Investment), DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment) 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 said.
Last Monday, the Senate adopted a resolution filed by Go urging the executive department to formulate and implement his proposed “Balik Probinsya” program.
The proposal also aims to better prepare the country in responding to future pandemics and other crises similar to what is being experienced at present due to the COVID-19 health emergency.
“This plan aims to decongest urban areas as congestion proves to be a significant factor in the high number of COVID-19 cases. It also aims to boost rural development and create livelihood opportunities in the countryside to encourage city dwellers and businesses to move to the provinces,” Go said.
“As the President mentioned in his past statements, starting fresh in the provinces will give Filipinos hope for a better future after the COVID-19 crisis,” he said.