By Mario Casayuran
Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, the brains behind the ‘’Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pagasa (BP2)’’ program, today said political will is crucial for the success of the BP2 program even as the first batch of beneficiaries of the program designed to decongest the heavily populated Metro Manila area left for Leyte yesterday.
Go, chairman of the Senate health and demography committee, stressed this after he joined member-officials of the BP2 Council in sending off beneficiaries who qualified for the first pilot roll out of the program.
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea was also present in the first roll out held in Quezon City.
There were 111 beneficiaries, roughly comprised of 85 families, who embarked on their journey back to Leyte. These beneficiaries are composed of mostly heads of their families, and are part of the 3,371 identified applicants who expressed intent to go back to their homes in various municipalities in the province of Leyte.
“Natutuwa ako na ngayong araw ay nasimulan na natin ang pilot testing ng BP2 Program. Nakikita natin ang efficiency ng implementasyon ng programang ito na ating inihahandog para sa mga Pilipino. May political will ang ating gobyerno… importante na nasimulan na natin ito,’’ Go said. (I am happy that today we have started the pilot testing of BP2 program. We have seen the efficiency of the implementation of this program that we are offering for the Filipinos. The government has political will…it is important that we have started this.)
Go said that this initiative aims to give hope for a better future for Filipinos, especially after the current health crisis caused by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak.
Last May 6, President Duterte issued Executive Order 114, institutionalizing the program and creating an inter-agency council to craft policies and programs and oversee their implementation.
Before the BP2 beneficiaries of the roll out left for Leyte, their documents and health clearances were first processed and evaluated by concerned government agencies.
Booths were set up where the National Housing Authority (NHA) released boarding passes; Department of Health (DOH) undertook the required PCR test for COVID-19 and presented their local health clearances; and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) released transportation and financial allowance and other forms of assistance.
The Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) prepared the five units of buses that were bound for Leyte.
The Office of Senator Go also provided food packs, protective masks, and other forms of assistance to the beneficiaries.
The Department of Agriculture (DA) likewise provided beneficiaries with processed agricultural products as well as starter kits for backyard planting.
The DSWD will also immediately provide food packs upon arrival to their province. A livelihood grant will also be given within fifteen days from arrival. The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) has also coordinated with the receiving local government unit to ensure that needed support and assistance will be provided when they arrive in their homes.
“Pagdating naman nila roon, handa rin ang mga ahensyang bigyan sila ng dagdag na ayuda at tulong para sa kanilang magiging kabuhayan, pabahay, trabaho, edukasyon, pagkain, kalusugan at iba pa,’’ Go said. (Upon their arrival there, the concerned agencies are ready to provide them additional assistance for their new livelihood, housing, jobs, education, food, health and others.)
On the other hand, preparations are also underway for the other pilot testings to other provinces. The target number of Filipinos who will go home to the provinces will be around 100-300 for every roll out, depending on the capacity of the receiving LGUs. Health protocols will be followed and similar government assistance shall be provided for every roll out.
“Pinili natin ang probinsya ng Leyte bilang unang destinasyon dahil sila ang may pinakamataas na numero ng aplikante (We have chosen Leyte as the first destination because of the bigger number of applicants),” he said, adding that the provincial government of Leyte was also one of the first to signify its readiness to accept returning residents.
The other nine provinces that have the highest number of registered beneficiaries are Samar, Negros Occidental, Zamboanga del Norte, Southern Leyte, Bohol, Northern Samar, Camarines Sur, Pangasinan and Masbate.
In a live interview during the event, Go cited the political will of President Duterte as an important factor in ensuring the success of the program.
In view of the current pandemic, Go also mentioned that more and more Filipinos in Metro Manila have been expressing their willingness to go back to their respective provinces and start their lives anew.
Go emphasized that the program is voluntary.
“Wala pong pilitan ito. Kung ayaw niyo, hindi kayo pipilitin ng gobyerno. Kung gusto niyo, matutulungan po kayo. Binibigyan kayo ni Pangulong Duterte ng bagong pag-asa,’’ he added. (There is no compulsion. If you do not like it, the government will not force you. However, if you want, you’ll be assisted, President Duterte will give you new hope.)