By Genalyn Kabiling
Leyte and Camarines Sur have offered to participate in the government’s new “Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa” program to decongest Metro Manila and other urban areas, Malacañang announced Thursday.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque disclosed that the two provinces have agreed to accept people interested in returning to their hometowns.
President Duterte recently issued Executive Order No. 114 institutionalizing the “Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa” program to encourage reverse migration from Metro Manila and other congested urban areas to the countryside.
This program, which also seeks to achieve balanced regional development, may commence even during the quarantine period subject to certain health protocols.
“Magbibigay ng financial and non-cash assistance ang DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) para doon sa mga gustong umuwi. Napag alaman ko na dalawang probinsya na ang tatangap na mga babalik probinsya — ang probinsya ng Leyte at Camarines Sur (The DSWD will provide financial and non-cash assistance for those who want to return to the provinces. I’ve learned that two provinces have agreed to accept those availing themselves of the benefits of the program — the provinces of Leyte and Camarines Sur),” Roque said during a virtual press conference Thursday.
“Ang magbibigay ng transportasyon ang DOTr (Department of Transportation) pero ang staging area ay NHA (National Housing Authority) dahil ang general manager ng NHA ang executive director ng Balik Probinsya (The DOTr will provide transportation but the staging area will be at the NHA because the NHA general manager is the executive director of the program),” he added.
Roque admitted that given the difficult living conditions in Metro Manila that have been compounded by the quarantine restrictions, many urban dwellers have started to consider returning to their home provinces.
He assured that concerned government agencies would take measures to help facilitate their relocation.
“Ito naman ay panimula pa lamang. Kinakailangan mag-comply sa quarantine protocols dahil ayaw naman natin kumalat ang COVID sa probinsya (This is just the start. We must comply with quarantine protocols because we don’t want COVID-19 to spread in the provinces),” he said.
Under the Balik Probinsya program, the government will implement projects aimed at boosting countryside development and inclusive growth, providing adequate social services and promote employment, industrialization and improving quality of life in the rural areas.
The program framework will also include empowerment of local industries, food security and agricultural productivity, social welfare, health and employment, and infrastructure development.
According to Roque, a new council chaired by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea has been formed to draft the framework of the regional development program.
In the long-term, Roque said the government will propose legislation on government decentralization, tax incentives and private and business opportunities. New economic zones will also be established in growth centers.
He said there will also be a review of the internal revenue allotment due to the anticipated increase in population in the provinces.
The Balik Probinsya program was earlier proposed by the President’s former assistant and now Senator Christopher Go to decongest Metro Manila and other urban areas. The President later endorsed the relocation program to spark a sense of hope in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.