Holistic, more inclusive economic recovery

I hope we can sustain and improve on the gains and positive changes we have made under the Duterte administration.

In hopes of securing more opportunities to advance in life, it is not uncommon for those in rural areas to pack up their bags and try their luck in the cities. So often we hear stories of our fellow Filipinos who are making a living in Metro Manila after leaving their respective provinces.

While some have managed to thrive, many others are left worse off than they were before. Trying to escape poverty from the countryside, they unfortunately just become an addition to the mounting number of urban poor and informal settlers.

Indeed, this stark reality became even more glaring at the height of the pandemic when business operations were disrupted and sources of income even in Metro Manila were hard to come by. It has then become more imperative for us to focus on inclusive economic growth and rural development to address the worsening conditions of the urban poor. Thus, I had persistently pushed for the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa program, which was later institutionalized under Executive Order 114 issued by then president Rodrigo Duterte.

The BP2 aims in the long run to encourage residents of Metro Manila and businesses to settle and invest in regions outside the capital to bring balanced regional development and equitable distribution of wealth, resources, and opportunities through policies and programs that boost countryside development and inclusive growth.

The program also provides adequate social services to the people, promotes employment, and focuses on key areas, such as empowerment of local industries, food security, and infrastructure development in rural areas. It has so far facilitated the return of hundreds of individuals and families to their home provinces provided with sustainable livelihood grants and other incentives.

To ensure that those who reside in rural areas lacking job opportunities are taken care of, I also recently filed Senate Bill 420, establishing a Rural Employment Assistance Program under the Department of Labor and Employment, which shall provide temporary employment to qualified individuals who are poor, disadvantaged, displaced or seasonal workers willing to work for a minimum of 10 days, but not more than 90 days in a calendar year.

Through a more holistic approach in addressing poverty and promoting economic development, we may likewise address the root causes of insurgencies in our country. This is also the reason why I have been a firm supporter of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict as it has significantly helped in our whole-of-nation approach against armed conflicts by prioritizing and harmonizing the delivery of basic services and social development packages by the government.

I have early on stressed the importance of reintegrating former rebels into society by providing them the means to make a living and overcome poverty. The government agencies involved provide assistance through various programs, such as the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s cash grants to former rebels. The Sustainable Livelihood Program’s Livelihood Settlement Grant of the agency, in support of the Enhanced Comprehensive Local Integration Program of the government, also aims to provide financial aid to such individuals so that they can become productive members of their communities.

Notably, the creation of both the BP2 program and the NTF ELCAC was made possible under former president Duterte’s term, exemplifying his genuine concern for the welfare of our Filipino people. These, together with all the many other initiatives he pursued to provide a more comfortable life for all, may very well be the reason why he received an “excellent” satisfaction rating based on the latest Social Weather Stations survey conducted during his final days in office.

A historic high among Filipino presidents and one of the highest among leaders of major democracies in the world, his phenomenal brand of leadership further emboldens any public servant to work harder for our people.

Working with him for more than 20 years, I am deeply grateful to him for being my mentor. He always tells me to put the welfare of our Filipino people first and that has since served as my mantra in my daily work as a public servant. Thus, I also continue to provide aid to our struggling Filipinos nationwide.

Last week, I personally spearheaded the relief activity for 270 indigent residents in Quezon City and 197 more in Malabon City, together with Sen. Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa and Sen. Francis Tolentino’s team.

My office also handed out assistance to 1,200 struggling residents in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental and 383 in Tangub City, Misamis Occidental. In Northern Samar, 502 from Catarman and Lope de Vega received aid; while in Agusan del Sur, 133 from Rosario and San Luis were assisted.

We also continued to help micro-entrepreneurs, including 2,148 in Binalonan, Pangasinan; and 474 in Catarman, 220 in Mahinog, 220 in Mambajao, 115 in Sagay, and 95 in Guinsiliban, all in Camiguin. In Cagayan, we provided relief to 328 in Gattaran; 549 in Sanchez Mira; 192 in Iguig, Piat, Tuao and Sto. Niño; 149 in Baggao; 132 in Gonzaga, Llalo, and Sta. Ana; and 89 more in Alcala.

My outreach teams likewise distributed assistance to 500 residents in Claver, Bacuag, Tubod and Tagana-an, Surigao del Norte; and 300 in Jones, San Agustin and Cordon, Isabela.

Moreover, we delivered support to 600 residents in Tacloban City, 419 in Baybay City, 134 in Abuyog, 73 in MacArthur, 50 in Isabel, 48 in Tolosa, and 30 in Burauen, Leyte. We also supported 200 residents in Maasin City, Southern Leyte.

To ensure that disaster victims are supported amid the pandemic, my team helped 23 fire victims in Cebu City, 13 in Carcar City, Cebu; 55 in Cagayan de Oro City, Misamis Oriental; 51 in Quezon City; and two families in Dumangas, Iloilo.

Finally, we supported more struggling Filipinos, including 250 in Pola, Oriental Mindoro; 800 in Malolos City, Bulacan; 764 in Maria, Lazi, San Juan and Enrique Villanueva, Siquijor; 912 in Badian, Cebu; 591 in Caloocan City; 223 in Laoag City,
Ilocos Norte; and 200 more in both Marikina and Mandaluyong cities.

I hope we can sustain and improve on the gains and positive changes we have made under the Duterte administration in our bid for a full and holistic pandemic economic recovery.

I am also confident that our current administration will strive to ensure that no Filipino is left behind in our path toward recovery, and I am excited to be one of its partners in every step of the way.

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