‘Balik-Probinsya’ long-term plan to decongest Metro Manila

MANILA, Philippines, April 27 ------ Sen. Bong Go’s “Balik Probinsya” proposal that he wants to see implemented after the COVID-19 crisis is meant as a long-term program requiring careful planning and full commitment of support from concerned government agencies and the private sector. Go said on Friday his proposal, if carried out, is expected to decongest Metro Manila and boost development in other regions. “(Balik-Probinsya) is a long-term plan to encourage them to go back to the provinces. We need to study and plan a way to give them livelihood. This is not immediate, we have quarantine protocols to follow,” he said. “Right now, our priority is to manage the pandemic. We respect the ECQ (enhanced community quarantine) and GCQ (general community quarantine) guidelines. Our primary purpose is to manage and overcome this present crisis,” he added. Go pointed out the government must prepare the country for a “new normal” after the COVID-19 crisis. In making the proposal, Go pointed out that the high density of communities in Metro Manila accelerates the spread of infectious diseases such as COVID-19 and also slows down the efficiency of the government in providing assistance to affected individuals and communities. “This is what the President is trying to drive at – that the other provinces should be developed to decongest Metro Manila. It’s so crowded here that’s why diseases spread easily. There are so many people, it’s hard for the government to care for those affected,” he said. Go, chairman of the Senate committee on health and demography, explained that 70 percent of COVID-19 cases are in Metro Manila. “We’ve been hearing the same problem for years. Houses stand so close to one another, that’s why fires are frequent. And there’s always heavy traffic because there are so many vehicles,” he said. “No wonder people contract COVID-19 easily.” Go emphasized his Balik Probinsya plan has the full support of President Duterte. “We have learned many things from this crisis,” the senator said. In a televised speech, President Duterte and other executive agencies expressed support for Go’s proposal. “Managua ‘yan, Bong. Going home to the province would help and would mean going back there... we would give them hope. Importante ‘yan eh… some of them might really leave the city of Manila or its environment with a heavy heart. But we have to provide the transportation. What is really very important is we give them hope. It’s very important, ‘yung hope ng tao,” the President remarked. To encourage the private sector to invest in the provinces, the Department of Trade and Industry said it would provide incentives for businesses that will open in the provinces. The government will also provide financial assistance and affordable loans to those who seek to open micro, small or medium enterprises in the provinces. Go said that the program is now being studied by the government. “Presently we are studying steps to implement this after the COVID-19 crisis. As legislator, I’m also studying what legislative action is needed to support the program.” Despite its booming economy, Go also cited that the Philippines remains a largely agricultural country with plenty of idle lands in the countryside that can be developed. “The government may facilitate the utilization of some of these idle lands for the productive use of people who will be relocated from Metro Manila and other metropolitan areas,” he suggested. “Coupled with tax reforms and more aggressive support for MSME development, the government may be able to create a business environment conducive to more investments in the countryside,” he explained. By linking up with higher educational institutions and technical and skills development centers, Go further recommended that rural areas can readily provide the needed human resource for new businesses in their communities. “The Balik Probinsya program is not just about minimizing the spread of disease. This proposal is also about equitable distribution of the gains of our fast developing economy, balanced development of the urban and rural areas and poverty alleviation,” Go added. Source: philstar.com