Balik Probinsya, recycled old hat

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    `It had been experimented by various administrations since Marcos, and had failed.’

    THE public first heard of the “Balik Probinsya” program of the Duterte administration when it was inserted by President Duterte as a side topic in one of his COVID-19 pandemic meetings with the Inter-agency Task Force (IATF). On May 6, Duterte formalized the program with an executive order directing several departments to support it.

    Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go, the only official who straddles two branches of government (you can see him both in Malacañang and in the Senate), said the decongestion of Metro Manila from traffic, housing, business, etc. may be solved by encouraging former provincianos to return to their hometowns. This involves the government’s spending for their transportation, food, moving needs, housing, livelihood, farm land, seeds and farm implements, medical and educational assistance, etc.

    Senator Go’s rationale for his proposal is also to lessen the population of Metro Manila and thus lighten the load of the national medical system in the ongoing war against SARS CoV-2, the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease which is still ravaging the whole country.

    Go stressed that the government should learn from the experiences of the COVID-19 crisis, which show that infections are reported high in densely populated communities such as several districts in Metro Manila and its adjacent areas.

    Bong Go’s idea is good on paper, but to put it bluntly, it is old hat, it has been tried before. It had been experimented by various administrations since Marcos, and had failed. To this day, Filipinos still congregate in Manila and suburbs to seek a better life, to chase their dreams of success.

    Sen. Panfilo Lacson, meanwhile, believes that the proposed decongestion of Metro Manila could happen only if the national government creates opportunities in the rural areas.

    ‘’The answer lies in a more equitable distribution of the national budget that adopts a mere 20-percent of projects, activities and programs out of those endorsed by the local development councils,’’ Lacson said.

    Bishop Broderick Pabillo, administrator of the Archdiocese of Manila, said the program will not work unless the government and businesses pour massive investments in rural areas. He added the people should get adequate human services and jobs in the provinces.

    Pabillo noted that many such programs in the past “have all failed” because people who were sent to the provinces came back to the cities after some time because of the need for jobs.

    It is worthwhile to monitor the fate of the first 120 individuals who were returned to Palo, Leyte from Metro Manila and given all the government care and support to build a new life in their hometown. The poor natives of Palo who did not leave will turn green in envy with the way the government cared for these balikbayans, but we hope this won’t be such a big trouble for the homecoming Leytenos.

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