By Ali Macabalang
COTABATO CITY – Four southern provinces have joined the “Balik Probinsya, Balik Pagasa” Program (BPBPP) to recall their migrant residents, help decongest metropolitan cities, and vie equitable growth share, according to the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA).
The provinces included Zamboanga del Norte, Lanao del Norte, North Cotabato and Bukidnon, according to MinDA Chairman Manny Piñol, who was reportedly assisting BPBPP proponent Senator Christopher Lawrence Go in identifying and coordinating potential resettlement areas in Mindanao.
Zamboanga del Norte Gov. Roberto Uy was among the earliest to respond, offering 50 hectares of land as a pilot model rural resettlement community during a meeting with Piñol in Dipolog City on May 6, the day President Duterte signed Executive Order 114 creating the implementing council, MinDA staffers said.
On May 7, Lanao del Norte officials, led by Governor Imelda Quibranza-Dimaporo, hosted a similar briefing with Pinol, and instantly “enrolled” in the program, MinDA Communications Office chief Dr. Adrian Tamayo said.
Tamayo said Governors Nancy Catamco of North Cotabato and Jose Zubiri of Bukidnon followed suit in succeeding meetings with the Piñol.
In a statement Friday, the MinDA chief said Zubiri was at first skeptical about the program, but later “expressed full” when told that President Duterte has mandated “a Whole-of-Nation Approach” in the implementation process.
Under E.O. 114, the President created the BPBPP Council, which will be comprised by practically all government line agencies to roll out comprehensive steps in decongesting Metro Manila, and promoting countryside development. The council was given 30 days to formulate the guidelines for the implementation of the program.
The council is led by the Executive Secretary with the Socioeconomic Planning Secretary as vice chairperson, with the heads of the interior and local government, social welfare, agriculture, agrarian reform, trade and industry, labor and employment, health, information and communications technology, finance, budget and management, public works and highways, transportation, tourism, human settlements, environment, and education as members.
The heads of the MinDA, the Commission of Higher Education, the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, and the Cooperative Development Authority also sit as council members.
“The uncontrolled upsurge of population in the National Capital Region brings to the fore longstanding issues on the lack of viable and sustainable employment opportunities in the countryside, unbalanced regional development and unequal distribution of wealth,” E.O. 114 stated.
“To reverse migration to the NCR and other congested metropolises, as well as to attain rural prosperity through equal distribution of wealth, resources and opportunities, a balanced regional development program to foster socially cohesive, resilient and sustainable rural communities needs to be institutionalized,” it added.
Duterte said the program’s framework seeks to empower local industries, food security and agricultural productivity, social welfare, health and employment, and infrastructure development.