Mon. Jan 24th, 2022

MANILA – A lawmaker at the House of Representatives has filed a measure seeking to establish the “Balik-Probinsya” public housing and relocation program for the urban poor.

In a statement on Thursday, Bohol Rep. Alexie Besas Tutor said House Bill (HB) 6674 seeks to complement President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order (EO) 114, which aims to decongest Metro Manila and ensure balanced regional development.

“We appreciate the swiftness of Malacañang in the issuance of the EO 114 because it also boosts the chances of HB 6674 at becoming law as soon as possible,” she said.

She said the bill goes into the details of methodically identifying beneficiaries by the Philippine Statistics Authority, registering the urban poor for basic government services, and laying out the “broad strokes” of creating the public housing communities for the beneficiaries.

“This bill draws lessons from the first National Migration Survey done in 2018 and the results of which were released last January. This bill is also follow-up legislation to the charter of the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development,” she added.

Tutor said the proposal seeks to address the main reasons for the rural-to-urban migration that “has spawned thousands of informal settler neighborhoods and more so in the country’s three main metropolises”, particularly Metro Manila, Metro Cebu and Metro Davao.

The bill, she added, shall mandate ready employment for the beneficiaries, public housing, and the essential components of a functioning community.

“Jobs, education, electricity, water, and health services are mandated. For economic sustainability of the public housing communities, the bill includes mandates for ecozones and tourism enterprise zones as components of the commercial areas of the communities,” she said.

“The Balik Probinsya program is a medium-term solution to the urban congestion and population density of Manila, Cebu and Davao. I am hopeful that by Year 2022, the first Balik Probinsya public housing communities would have its first batches of residents settled in,” she added.

EO 114 creates a “Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa” (BP2) Council to ensure a whole-of-government action of the implementation of the BP2 program.

Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea will serve as the BP2 chairperson while Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua will be his vice chair.

The council will be tasked to formulate within 30 days the guidelines necessary to implement this order, including the BP2 program framework and at the same time provide overall direction in the implementation of the program.

It will also have the powers and functions to identify legislative, regulatory and policy changes to promote balanced regional development and recommend to the Congress the enactment of such reforms into law and engage, consult and coordinate with local government units in the formulation of policies, and implementation of the components of the BP program.

As for the BP2 program framework, it will be divided in four key areas — empowerment of local industries; food security and agricultural productivity; social welfare, health, and employment; and development of infrastructure. (IA/PNA)

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