Sat. Sep 25th, 2021

MANILA – Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go on Monday stressed the need to speed up the development of the countryside by veering away from a centralized approach to governance through a proposed “Balik-Probinsya” program.

Go said congestion in Metro Manila proves to be a significant factor in the high number of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) cases in urban areas, citing the Department of Health’s data that almost 70 percent of Covid-19 infection cases are from the National Capital Region.

“Malaking factor po sa mabilis na pagkalat ng Covid-19 sa Metro Manila ang congestion o overcrowding. Sabi nga ng mga eksperto, maraming global pandemics pa po ang mararanasan ng mundo sa hinaharap. Kailangan po natin ng mas proactive at pangmatagalang solusyon dito upang mas maging handa tayo sa hinaharap (Overcrowding was a big factor why Covid-19 spread quickly in Metro Manila. According to the experts, more global pandemics will occur worldwide in the future. We need to be proactive and to create long-term solutions to be prepared in the future),” Go said.

He said Balik Probinsya program is one of the long-term solutions to decongest the urban centers and to develop other regions of the country.

“Sa Balik Probinsya program, pag-aaralan natin kung papaano natin magagawa na mas i-empower ang ating mga probinsya upang magkaroon din sila ng kapasidad na tulungan ang kanilang mga nasasakupan (Under Balik Probinsya, we will study how to empower our provinces to increase their capacity to help their constituents),” he said.

Go proposed the “Balik Probinsya” program which continued to draw support particularly from the Executive department.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) expressed desire to provide more incentives for businesses that will be put up in provinces to encourage more people to return to their respective provinces because of increased job opportunities.

The DTI has existing program to develop micro, small and medium enterprises, involving, among others, small business capitalization starting in the barangay level.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) said it will prepare community-driven development approach by designing its own initiatives to support the “Balik Probinsya” program.

Among the DSWD initiatives is to encouraging people affected by disasters or internally displaced persons (IDPs) to return to their original places.

The DSWD also seeks to address many issues, such as families preferring to stay in big cities for lack of regular sources of income in the province, children enrolled in different schools, housing problem forcing them to live with poor relatives in cramped dwellings, absence of farm land to till, and constrained support system, among others.

Go earlier called the Department of Agriculture (DA) to ensure food security and safeguard the welfare of the Filipinos particularly poor farmers and fishers amid the Covid-19 crisis.

DA Secretary William Dar, in a press statement, affirmed his full support to the “Balik Probinsya” program, saying proposal will “further boost government efforts to attain higher levels of food security.”

Dar also mentioned that the program should be well-planned and consider convergence of resettlement, employment and livelihood opportunities, social development, health supply system, infrastructure, and resilient environment.

Despite its booming economy, the Philippines, Go said, 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.

Acting National Economic Development Authority Secretary General and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua admitted that the grant of incentives may be revisited since the present system grants the same incentives regardless of the location of a business in the country.

Chua believes that by giving more incentives for new business in the countryside, investors may be lured to invest outside of Metro Manila and other metropolitan areas.

Department of Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and Chua believe that passage of Senate Bill 1357 or the Corporate Income Tax and Incentives Rationalization Act (CITIRA) will reinforce the “Balik Probinsya” program where more incentives will be given to businesses in the provinces.

Go emphasized the need to develop the countryside consistent with the policy direction of President Rodrigo Duterte to create robust economic activities and wealth generation outside Metro Manila or other urban centers.

“Hahanapan natin ng paraan upang ganahan ang mga negosyanteng mag-invest o mag-expand sa mga probinsya para naroon na rin ang trabaho at hindi na kailangan ng mga Pilipino doon na magpunta pa sa Metro Manila at lumayo sa kanilang mga pamilya (We have to find ways to inspire businessmen to invest or expand in the provinces to create more jobs and the Filipinos need not to go to Metro Manila and be away from their families),” Go said.

Go added that Balik Probinsya program will not only prevent fast spread of disease but “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.” (PR)

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