By Mario Casayuran
Senator Christopher Go today welcomed the private sector’s interest in participating in the government’s push for accelerated regional development through the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa (BP2) program.
Go, chairman of the Senate health and demography committee, also encouraged more businesses to follow suit and invest in areas outside the country’s heavily populated urban centers.
He said he sees the BP2 Program as a means of giving Filipinos hope for a better future after the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis.
’’(I)sa sa mga layunin ng ‘Balik Probinsya’ program ang pagsigurong handa at kaaya-aya ang mga probinsya para sa mga bagong negosyong ipapatayo ng mga mamumuhunan,’’ Go said. (One of the objectives of the ‘Balik Probinsya’ program is to ensure that the provinces are better prepared for the new businesses to be established by the investors.).
Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) President Benedicto Yujuico stated that the BP2 program aligned with their stance to focus growth priority to farming and fishery, which in turn should develop rural economies, in a position paper submitted to the House last May. Agriculture and agri-business are the two top technical skills BP2 applicants choose to pursue.
“Kapag nasa probinsya, pwede naman mag-invest rin kung ‘yung mga local government very interested sa mga investment (para) magkaroon ng trabaho doon… talagang maganda ‘yun kung babalik sa probinsya (If it is in the province, we can also invest if the local government is very interested in the investments in order to generate jobs in their areas…it is really beautiful if they return to the province),” PCCI Chair Sergio Ortiz-Luis said in a recent separate interview.
Go also welcomed the statements by real estate firms Italpinas Development Corporation (IDC) and DoubleDragon Properties Corp. which hailed the government initiative as an opportunity to build sustainable cities and communities.
IDC CEO Romolo Nati expressed enthusiasm for the government’s revived emphasis to grant incentives for people to return to the provinces.
“This is an incredible opportunity that has to be played properly. More sustainable developments will have to [rise] in the new wave’s cities and all over the country,” Nati said.
“There is a need and a desire of a fresh start that can be both creative and bold. Filipinos have their chance to design their new cities in the provinces to make them a model of sustainable architecture in Southeast Asia and the world,” he added.
In a separate statement, DoubleDragon chairman Edgar “Injap” Sia II stated that they “commend and fully support the Balik Probinsya Program of the Philippine Government.
‘’We are one with the belief that the second and third tier provincial areas of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao need to be further incentivized to become more vibrant significantly in terms of their economy,’’ Sia said.
Their remarks were echoed by Michael McCullough, Managing Director of real estate services company KMC Savills.
The BP2 program would slow down urbanization in Metro Manila, he said in a virtual meeting.
The work-from-home arrangement employed by companies would encourage property developers to build projects that are more convenient for employees, he explained.
“We are seeing a lot of clients scrabble for decentralized locations. Many of our call center clients have contacted us saying, ‘We need locations closer to our agents,” he said.
Go previously called on various government agencies to establish policies and regulations which would contribute to an environment conducive to the creation and growth of enterprises.
In the 4th edition (May 18, 2020) of the “Philippine Government Stimulus Package” policy paper published by SGV & Co. Philippines, one of the country’s leading accounting firms, the Investment Priorities Plan (IPP) was identified as essential in aligning businesses with the BP2 program. The 2020 IPP of the Board of Investment, an annual listing of priority economic activities, will offer incentives to businesses located in ‘’greenfield’’ areas.
The same policy paper also highlighted various grants for small businesses, such as those offered by the trade department, as one of the sectoral interventions to ensure business resiliency.
Go emphasized that these efforts would be complemented by the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) Act, now pending in Congress, which shall offer incentives to enterprises registered in areas outside of major cities such as Metro Manila as well as less developed areas previously determined by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA).
“Para maabot natin ang hinahangad na kaunlaran, dapat nating simulan na ang pagpaplano ng national at local government units na gumawa na ng trade and industry roadmap at polisiya para tiyak na makukuha nating mag-invest ang mga negosyo sa probinsya,’’ Go explained. (For us to realize the intended progress, we should start making the trade and industry roadmap and policy so we could entice businesses to invest in the province.)
NEDA Secretary Karl Chua earlier concurred that the program would lure investors in other parts of the country.
He had suggested that the current system which granted the same incentives regardless of the location of a business could be revisited.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez likewise lent his support for the initiative by offering to provide additional incentives to enterprises located outside Metro Manila.
“Gusto naming suportahan ang proposal ni Senator Bong. Puwede naming suportahan ‘yun by pushing the investments papunta doon (We would like to support the proposal of Senator Bong. We can support it by pushing the investments towards there). How do we do push it? More incentives. Sa ngayon (For now), we can give more incentives papuntang probinsya kesa sa incentives na maglo-locate sa Metro Manila (…going to the provinces instead of incentives for the relocation in Metro Manila). More attraction to looking outside. Kapag andun ang incentives, magkakaroon rin ng trabaho doon (If the incentives are in the provinces, job generation will follow),” Lopez said.
New and existing micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) could be assisted by the Department of Trade and Industry’s various programs for assistance, namely the Livelihood Seeding Program – Negosyo sa Barangay; Pondo sa Pagbabago at Pag-asenso, an enterprise rehabilitation program; and Pangkabuhayan sa Pagbangon at Ginhawa Program for victims of the pandemic, among others.
Over the weekend, Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Secretary Fortunato dela Peña announced the scheduled launch of the Expanded Opportunities for Development through the Use of Science and Technology program which shall provide technical assistance to investors in a bid to generate employment opportunities for BP2 beneficiaries. Key growth areas were identified which included Batangas and Cebu.
In early May, President Duterte signed Executive Order 114, institutionalizing the BP2 program and creating an inter-agency council to oversee its implementation. The program has 77,446 applications, as of June 1, 2020.