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6M to emerge from poverty

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President Rodrigo Duterte’s order to institutionalize the “Balik Probinsya” program would lift six million people out of poverty and would speed up the government’s objective to reduce poverty incidence to 11 percent by 2022, the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) said.

NAPC chairman Noel Felongco projected that at least 6 million Filipinos would transition into middle class status as a result of the program which seeks to decongest the National Capital Region (NCR) and support returning residents to their provinces.

In his paper entitled “Rapid, Inclusive and Sustainable Economies: Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa Rural Development Strategy,” Felongco said the program is coherent with the policies laid down by the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022.

The Balik Probinsiya program was conceptualized by Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go to spread economic development equally to the entire country.

As a proponent of the said program, the BP2 is a long-term holistic, whole-of-nation program that aims to address the development imbalance between urban and rural areas, Go said in his weekly piece “GOing Forward.”

“The countryside holds a lot of potential for development. As a probinsyano, I grew up realizing the endless possibilities of our regions, if we could only give them the right opportunities to do so,” according to Go.

The plan hammered out strategies of spatial development to decongest Metro Manila and to trigger direct growth in key regional centers.

The strategies also sought to improve linkages by connecting rural areas to growth centers and to make growth more inclusive by creating more opportunities for production and employment in the lagging regions — thereby reducing poverty in the process, Felongco said.

Under BP2, the government would provide free transportation and livelihood assistance to residents living in Metro Manila who want to be relocated to their respective residences.

DoTr sets trend

Prior to the President’s directive, the Department of Transportation (DoTr) has transferred its central office in Metro Manila to Clark, Pampanga in a bid to decongest the Philippine capital.

“The transfer was seen to help decongest traffic in Metro Manila, reduce travel time and improve travel of motorists and boost development in the peripheries of NCR,” DoTr Secretary Arthur Tugade said.

“The DoTr must set an example on doing efforts to ease traffic congestion. We are here to help the government and show that we are willing to sacrifice for the greater good,” he added.

The transfer likewise increased the savings of the DoTr, owing to less rental and overhead costs in Clark, as well as gaining potential income from leasing out its owned units in Columbia Towers.

The DoTr estimated an additional P9.3 million per year from the transfer.

As envisioned in the “Build, Build, Build” program of the Duterte administration, the National Government Center in Clark will serve as a common location that will facilitate smooth-sailing convergence of government agencies.

Developing value chain

Go sponsored the resolution for the program which became the basis for Executive Order (EO) 114 which institutionalized the initiative.

Felongco said the EO underscored the need for the promotion of value chain development in provinces to increase agricultural and rural enterprise productivity and tourism, as well as the use of science and technology to enhance innovation and creative capacity towards self-sustaining, inclusive development.

The NCR accounted for the largest share of the country’s GDP at 36 percent based on the 2018 Philippine Statistics Authority data while its population of 12,877.253 accounted for about 12.8 percent of the Philippine population per the 2015 census, the EO noted.

The order also cited the “uncontrolled upsurge of population in the NCR that laid bare the lack of viable and sustainable employment opportunities in the countryside, unbalanced regional development and unequal distribution of wealth.”

The order also noted that the epicenters of the novel coronavirus pandemic in the Philippines are located in Metro Manila’s congested areas.

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