IN light of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) emergency in the country, Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go reiterated his push for a "Balik Probinsya" program to even out economic development and stimulate additional job creations in different regions of the country.
He stressed the need to create livelihood opportunities in the countryside to encourage city dwellers and businesses to move to the provinces after the COVID-19 crisis.
“Kapag natapos na ang hirap na dinaranas natin dahil sa COVID-19, bigyan natin ng pag-asa ang mga Pilipino na makaahon at magkaroon ng pagkakataon ng mas magandang kinabukasan sa mga probinsya nila,” Go said reiterating President Rodrigo Duterte’s sentiments that there is a need to provide Filipinos with “hope” of a better tomorrow amid the adverse socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 health emergency.
“While we are doing our best to overcome this crisis, let us work together to assure Filipinos that there is hope of a better tomorrow after COVID-19. We can do this by providing them opportunities to rebuild their lives in their home provinces,” he added.
Go said that one of the first steps to motivate Filipinos to move back to the provinces is to address the lack of livelihood opportunities in the countryside by providing jobs and boosting rural development. He added that for decades, Filipinos move to Metro Manila to seek opportunities that are lacking in their hometowns.
“Marami po sa ating mga kababayan ang pumupunta sa Maynila para makahanap ng mga oportunidad para mapunan ang pangangailangan ng kanilang pamilya. Kaya importante na dalhin natin ang livelihood opportunities na ito sa kanilang mga lugar para hindi na nila kakailanganing lumisan pa,” Go said.
“'Yung mga nasa Maynila naman, kung alam nila na may trabaho at kabuhayan sa kanilang probinsya, mas pipiliin nilang bumalik na lang doon,” he added.
“Probinsyano rin po ako kaya naiintindihan ko ang sitwasyon nila. Mas gugustuhin ng isang probinsyano na makapiling ang kanyang pamilya at manirahan sa lugar na presko ang hangin at hindi masikip ang mga komunidad at mga kalsada — basta may sapat na kabuhayan para umunlad rin ang antas niya sa buhay,” Go further explained.
The Senator lamented the current situation of those from provinces who moved to Metro Manila expecting a better future but ending up living in poorer conditions with no choice but to stay just to earn a living. He said that these settlers are faced with more problems as only low-paying jobs are available for them.
“Marami sa kanila ang nagsisisi ngunit wala lang talaga silang choice,” he stressed as he narrated his encounters visiting fire victims in Metro Manila and asking those who would like to go back to their provinces.
“Sa tuwing bumibisita ako sa mga biktima ng sunog at tinatanong ko sila kung nais nilang bumalik ng probinsya, marami sa kanila ang nagtataas ng kamay. Ngunit nagdadalawalang isip sila dahil hindi sila sigurado kung may mga makukuha ba silang trabaho doon sa probinsya,” he said, proving that city dwellers would be willing to return to their provinces if livelihood opportunities are available there.
Go said that as early as now, preparations must be made for the implementation of a "Balik Probinsya" program as a tool to empower the countryside, decongest Metro Manila, and address the adverse socio-economic impact caused by COVID-19.
“Mahirap bumangon mula sa COVID-19 kung hahayaan pa rin nating magkumpol-kumpol ang mga tao sa Kamaynilaan at wala pa ring asensong mangyayari sa mga probinsya,” he said.
Following Go’s proposal, a virtual meeting was held this Monday with concerned government officials led by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea. Initial plans regarding short-term and long-term goals were discussed.
The Executive Secretary, with the help of the National Housing Authority and the National Economic and Development Authority, will initially lead the planning stages of the "Balik Probinsiya" program. Concerned agencies like the Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Agriculture, among others, will also be involved.
The government will initially prepare a plan to assist stranded workers in Metro Manila who wish to return to their home provinces once the enhanced community quarantine is lifted. The possible provision of transportation, food and financial assistance for these beneficiaries are being prepared.
“Hahanapan natin ng paraan upang ganahan ang mga negosyo na mag-invest o mag-expand sa mga probinsya. Palalakasin rin natin ang sektor ng agrikultura para ma-promote pa lalo ang rural development,” the Senator said.