Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go on April 29, 2002, urged the national and local governments to begin drawing up a stable and conducive policy environment that will entice stakeholders and investors to start businesses in the provinces to support the plan for the implementation of a “Balik Probinsya” program after the country overcomes the COVID-19 crisis
“Habang patuloy nating nilalabanan ang COVID-19, pinaghahandaan na rin natin ang ‘new normal’ kung saan kaya nating harapin ang epekto ng krisis na ito sa ekonomiya at sa pang-araw araw natin na buhay. Nais nating siguraduhin na makakaahon ang bansa at magiging mas handa sa anumang krisis na darating,” Go said.
According to Go, motivating city dwellers and incentivizing businesses to relocate to the provinces will be the long-term goal. Key programs of different agencies that can help promote the “Balik Probinsya” initiative must be identified and prioritized.
“Bukod sa gusto nating umuwi sa probinsya ang mga Pilipino mula sa mga siyudad, tulad ng Metro Manila, isa sa mga layunin ng proposed na ‘Balik Probinsya’ program ang pagsigurong handa at kaaya-aya ang mga probinsya para sa mga bagong negosyong ipapatayo ng mga mamumuhunan,” Go said.
“Para maabot natin ang hinahangad na kaunlaran, dapat nating simulan na ang pagpaplano ng national at local government units na gumawa na ng trade and industry roadmap at konkretong polisiya para tiyak na makukuha nating mag-invest ang mga negosyo sa probinsya,” the Senator added.
Go said that the policies may complement the objectives of the proposed Corporate Income Tax and Incentives Rationalization Act or the CITIRA bill, now pending in the Senate. The bill, which seeks to reform the corporate income tax and incentives system in the country, will provide a fair ground of tax collection and incentive for urban and rural areas, and benefit local and rural communities with the new investments coming in. It is primarily authored by Senator Pia Cayetano and was certified as urgent by President Rodrigo Duterte last March.
Acting National Economic and Development Authority Director-General and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua says that the grant of tax incentives can be more targeted to the provinces since the present system grants the same incentives regardless of the location of a business in the country. And by giving more incentives for new business in the countryside, Chua believes that investors can 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 business in the provinces.
“Sa pamamagitan ng CITIRA na sana’y maaprubahan na rin ng Kongreso, kapag may mas maraming industriya at nakakapagtrabaho sa mga probinsya, ang mga dagdag na buwis na makokolekta mula rito ay magagamit para sa dagdag na serbisyo ng lokal na pamahalaan at mas magandang imprastruktura,” he explained.
The Senator also encouraged government agencies to determine skills that squarely match the requirements of the new businesses to be put up. He suggested that a specialized Balik Probinsya jobs fair may also be organized with skills and job matching between BPP beneficiaries and new investors.
“We need to scale up our policies to the standard that it will also be fair for both investors and the community. I ask the concerned government agencies, such as DSWD, CHED and TESDA to map out the skills of proposed BPP beneficiaries in order to match them with possible investors,” Go highlighted.
With the plan, Go hopes that Filipinos will not have to leave the countryside and be separated from their families as job opportunities are created right in their localities.
“Ang layunin naman natin dito sa BPP ay hindi lamang para ma-decongest ang Manila. Gusto natin makabalik ang mga Pilipino sa piling ng kanilang mga pamilya sa probinsya at hindi na mawalay sa isa’t isa,” Go said.
Government agencies and leaders from the private sector have recently signified their support to the proposed “Balik Probinsya” program. Admitting that this is a long-term plan to decongest Metro Manila and other big metropolitan areas, as well as to accelerate socio-economic development in the countryside, the Senator hopes that this program will usher new opportunities for a brighter future even for ordinary Filipinos now grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This plan aims to decongest urban areas as congestion proves to be a significant factor in the high number of COVID-19 cases. It also aims to boost rural development and create livelihood opportunities in the countryside to encourage city dwellers and businesses to move to the provinces. As the President mentioned in his past statements, starting fresh in the provinces would give Filipinos HOPE for a better future after COVID-19 crisis,” Go explained.