By Armando Fenequito Jr.
DAVAO CITY – The “Balik Probinsya ” program of the Duterte administration was not just a recycled program “throwing poor families back to the countryside”.
This was the assessment made by Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) Secretary Emmanuel Piñol in a statement.
Piñol said the “Balik Probinsya” program was proof that government planners and economic managers in the past were wrong in concentrating development in the urban centers while neglecting the needs of the poor in the countryside.
He said that the program, which now employs the Whole-of-Nation-Approach with 22 departments and agencies involved, was not just a reaction to the problems seen in the containment of a pandemic like the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in over-populated areas, but an admission by the government of flawed policies in the equitable sharing of government resources.
“This has resulted in a massive migration to the big cities, or even overseas, and stunted the development of the countryside causing very low productivity and widespread poverty. This program is the start of the shift of development efforts to the countryside where it is most needed and where the poverty level is high,” he said.
Piñol said to ensure the success of “Balik Probinsya,” the government has to focus more resources like funds for farm to market roads, irrigation, storage, and processing facilities and ensure market access.
He also said that more economic opportunities must be created in rural areas with appropriate government incentives.
“This is the very reason why right after Sen. (Christopher) Go announced the “Balik Probinsya” Program, I and the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), the agency which I head, immediately jumped in and started working,” he said.
He said that to implement the program, government economic planners and budget managers will have to increase Mindanao’s share of the national budget pie from the current 12 percent (16 percent according to the national government) to a more equitable share.
“I and MinDA (formerly Mindanao Economic Development Council ) have long fought for this, from the time I was Governor of Cotabato and President of Mindanao Governors and Mayors League up until I became Secretary of Agriculture and now MinDA Chairman,” Piñol said.
He said soon, there may be no need for the women from Mindanao to work in the Middle East and there will be no need for us to depend on foreign sources for our food supply.