Eighty-five families – a total of 112 persons – became the first beneficiaries of the “Balik Probinsya” program last week. They were seen off Wednesday by Sen. Lawrence “Bong” Go, proponent of the program, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte, and other officials, as the first group of families left Cubao, Quezon City.
They arrived Thursday night in Palo, Leyte, where they were welcomed by Gov. Leopoldo Petilla. They were then fetched by officials of their various hometowns in Leyte, where they will be quarantined before they go on to their own homes.
It was the first batch of beneficiaries of the program, called Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa (BP2), after President Duterte signed Executive Order (EO) 114. They were given food packs from the Department of Social Welfare and Development, along with starter kits for backyard planting. They will also get assistance from the local government units.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has caused many in Metro Manila to want to return to their home provinces and start their lives anew, Senator Go said. “Before, nobody wanted to go home. Now many want to go because of the difficulties of the crisis.”
There is another important factor – there are now funds for it. After signing EO 114, President Duterte immediately formed a council with members from 17 government departments and agencies with resources for the program.
The most important part of the program to the returning provincianos is not so much the free transportation as the assistance they will be getting in the provinces. They left these provinces for Metro Manila years ago in search of work and a better life. Now they find that their provinces may actually have better opportunities for them than overcrowded Metro Manila.
Preparations are underway for more groups for other provinces. Many families have signed up for Pangasinan, Camarines Sur, Masbate, Samar, Northern Samar, Southern Leyte, Bohol, Negros Occidental, and Zamboanga del Norte.
The Balik Probinsya may seem like an emergency program to help people now suffering from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in Metro Manila. But it is actually a long-range program that must be pursued along with the administration’s development program focused on the various regions of the country outside of Metro Manila.