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DoE backs Balik Probinsya program

Hananeel Bordey

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Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi vows to support the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-Asa Program by ensuring rural electrification across the country.

“The Department of Energy (DoE) fully supports the Balik Probinsya Program and we have made a list of things we are going to do for the returnees,” Cusi said at the Joint Congressional Energy Committee hearing on Friday.

“Of course, we have to assure them they have immediate electricity connection. We are going to work with the National Electrification Administration and the cooperatives for the supply,” Cusi said in reference to party-list Rep. Presly de Jesus’ query on preparations for heightened electricity demand in rural areas as government pursued the Balik Probinsya Program.

The Energy chief said the DoE was not in the initial list of agencies pushing for the program but the agency volunteered to support the initiative.

To help decongest Metro Manila, President Duterte signed Executive Order 114 creating the council for Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-Asa program.

The initiative was pushed parallel to efforts combatting the COVID-19 pandemic.

The first batch of Balik Probinsya beneficiaries was sent to Palo, Leyte last Wednesday composed of more than a hundred people of the 10,000 who registered to avail of the program.

In a related development, Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go called on the government, particularly the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, to provide more technical, vocational and skills enhancement opportunities for Filipinos, especially displaced workers, to help them find livelihood opportunities.

As the Senate Committee of the Whole hearing on Thursday, Go raise the issue to Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) Director-General Isidro Lapeña, saying Filipinos need alternative livelihood opportunities given the adverse impact of the pandemic on employment and the economy as a whole.

He noted many have lost their employment and some have not completed their education training, which begs the question of whether the agency provides skills training for some of the population.

Go said this of people residing not only in Metro Manila but those planning to return to their home province as well.

On 20 May, Go sent off from Quezon City the first batch of Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa Program beneficiaries bound for Leyte.

Director-General Lapeña said the agency will accommodate the individuals for a shot at better employment and livelihood opportunities in the wake of the crisis.

“Yes, your honor. We will be accommodating them so that they can land a job or livelihood after,” Lapeña said.

Earlier, Senator Go urged the TESDA to conduct technical and vocational education and training (TVET) programs responsive to the needs of the local economy. Go said TVET programs are important in offering employment opportunities for Filipinos that help them recover losses attributable to the pandemic.

The Senator also urged TESDA to coordinate with government agencies as the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the National Economic and Development Authority to ensure the trainees are properly matched with job according to their acquired skills.

Go also asked DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez on the number of applicants given assistance via programs supporting micro and small enterprises affected by the COVID-19 situation.

This relates to the P1-billion COVID-19 Assistance to Restart Enterprises program provided by the financial conduit Small Business Corporation helping cushion the economic impact of the health crisis.

Lopez explained there is a network of credit partners monitoring MSME and determining who benefits from the program.

“We are giving back to some of them who are affected by COVID-19 pandemic. Their repayment rate is 9 percent,” Lopez said.

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