While the long-term goal of the “Balik Probinsya” program (BPP) is to encourage urban dwellers to relocate to the provinces to promote countryside development, the program should still be “voluntary” and would prioritize Filipino families who are willing to start anew in the countryside, Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go said Friday.
This is not mandatory, the government cannot force people to go back to the provinces. The program was conceived for those who wanted to relocate or return. The government will provide them the opportunity to start a new life in their provinces after the coronavirus disease crisis.
“Now is the time to implement it because many people wanted to go back to the provinces, so we will prioritize those who are willing. If they want to live here in Manila, we will respect that,” Go said.
To make the scheme attractive, national agencies and local government units (LGU) have already initiated their preparations for the implementation of the program, the senator indicated in his regular “GOing Forward” column.
Executive Order 114 which provided for the program stated the BPP will 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 will also provide adequate social services to its people, promote employment and focus on key areas, such as empowerment of local industries, food security and infrastructure development in rural areas.
Body set up
“My well-wishes to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea on his designation as Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa Council Chairman. He and the Council will be assisted by a Secretariat, who will be headed by National Housing Authority (NHA) General Manager Jun Escalada as Executive Director. As early as now, BPP Executive Director & NHA GM Jun Escalada and Mindanao Development Authority Secretary Manny Piñol have stated that six provinces are ready to participate in the pilot testing phase of BPP,” Go acknowledged.
The provinces which have expressed their readiness to be part of the program included Leyte, Zamboanga del Norte, Lanao del Norte, Bukidnon, North Cotabato, Tawi-Tawi, Eastern Samar, Misamis Occidental and Camarines Sur.
“I cannot express my gratitude enough to the leaders of these provinces. Through their efforts, we are now a step closer towards achieving our goals for the BPP,” he indicated.
Do land inventory
Go urged LGU to start conducting inventory of idle lands, so they can be developed and used as sites for individuals and families “who wish to settle in their provinces. I also urge concerned government agencies will closely coordinate with these local leaders to plan and craft protocols and processes ensuring the seamless implementation of the program.”
Under its Negosyo sa Barangay Program, the Department of Trade and Industry will also provide P8,000 to P10,000 as start-up capital for returnees who would like to start their own businesses, according to Go.
To ensure that jobs are waiting for Filipinos to leave the cities, “I have urged the government to attract even more foreign businesses to invest in the country, particularly in less developed regions. Key to this is ensuring the grant of incentives to investments in the provinces such as those proposed under the Corporate Income Tax and Incentives Rationalization Act or CITIRA bill of Senator Pia Cayetano.”
For those who wish to go back to the provinces now, Go said concerned officials from the Executive branch have already assured him that programs are in place for immediate relocation.