Friday, 29 May 2020
Governance Senate

Long-term, holistic ‘Balik Probinsya’ program to address perennial urban, rural problems — Bong Go

As the government’s Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa (BP2) Program aims to boost regional development, promote equitable distribution of economic opportunities in all parts of the country, and give Filipinos hope of a better future after the COVID-19 crisis, its proponent, Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, emphasized that the initiative should be seen as a long-term, holistic program to address perennial problems in both urban and rural areas and not simply just as an immediate response to the crisis.

“Hindi po natin basta ililipat lang ang mga tao from urban to rural areas. Wala po itong pilitan. Sinisiguro ng gobyerno na magiging maayos ang kabuhayan ng mga taong lilipat. Kaya po nagtayo ng inter-agency council. Para masigurong lahat ng aspeto ng buhay ng mga Pilipino ay mapaghandaan,” he explained.

“Sa short-term, nais po ng programang ito na tulungan bumangon muli ang kabuhayan ng mga gusto na bumalik sa kanilang probinsya. Sa mid- to long-term phase naman, holistic ang approach pagdating sa pagsasaayos ng mga essential public services sa iba’t ibang parte ng bansa, tulad ng education, housing, livelihood and health. Kasama rito ang pagpapalago ng ekonomiya sa mga probinsya,” he added.

Emphasizing that this is a whole-of-nation, holistic approach, Go said that the program aims to solve more than just the issues encountered during the COVID-19 crisis in Metro Manila but should also address other woes including congestion, overburdened public services, lack of decent living, criminality, poor sanitation and environmental degradation, among others, as well as the uneven development in other parts of the country.

“Almost 70% of COVID-19 infection cases are from the National Capital Region. Pero bukod sa mabilis na pagkalat ng sakit, marami pa pong ibang problema ang nararanasan ng mga taga-Maynila na matagal nang hinahanapan ng solusyon mula pa sa mga naunang mga administrasyon,” he said.

Go emphasized that the failures of past initiatives as well as the experiences encountered during COVID-19 must all be taken into consideration in order to comprehensively address these perennial issues once and for all.

“Sabi nila recycled idea po ito. Wala naman pong masama doon kung mapag-aaralan natin ang nangyari noong nakaraan para mas mapabuti ang implementasyon ngayon at maresolba na sa wakas ang matagal nang problema ng ating bansa,” he said in response to comments on the program.

“Ang pinakamahalaga ay meron tayong solusyon na sinisimulan at ginagawa. Dati kasi, puro lang plano… Ngayon umaaksyon po ang gobyerno para mabigyan ng pag-asa ang mga tao ng mas magandang buhay pagkatapos ng krisis,” Go added.

Go also said that while there have been similar initiatives in the past, it is an opportune time to implement the BP2 program now given the adverse socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis to the lives of all Filipinos.

“We have to act now. Marami nang gustong umuwi pagkatapos ng naranasan nila dahil sa COVID-19. Kaya inilunsad ang programang ito ngayon para matulungan sila ng gobyerno at mabigyan sila ng mas maayos na buhay kung pipiliin nilang bumalik sa kanilang mga probinsya,” he said.

Go emphasized that the whole country should learn from the experiences encountered during the COVID-19 crisis, particularly the difficulties in controlling the spread of a disease and the challenges of delivering government services in overpopulated urban centers.

“Sa Bisaya, ‘natagam’, o nadala na tayo. Let this be a learning experience for us all,” Go said, emphasizing the need to provide long-term solutions to better address various social, economic, and health issues in the future.

Go said that providing the urban poor the needed opportunities to have a sustainable livelihood in the provinces if they decide to relocate is important for the success of the BP2 program since they are one of the most vulnerable sectors of society amid this COVID-19 pandemic as well as in times of other calamities.

“Ang pangunahing layunin natin ay mabigyan sila ng mga oportunidad para umasenso, tulad ng maayos na trabaho, edukasyon, pabahay at suporta mula sa local government para makaahon sila sa kahirapan kung piliin nilang bumalik sa kanilang mga probinsya,” he added.

Go stressed that the congestion in Metro Manila is more than just an issue of insufficient urban housing. He explained that housing issues in urban areas are caused by long-term trends of too many Filipinos flocking to the cities for better job opportunities.

“Dikit-dikit na ang mga bahay sa Kamaynilaan kaya nga madaling nagkakahawaan ng sakit at palaging may disgrasya sa oras ng sakuna. Hindi ito mareresolba sa pamamagitan ng pagpapatayo ng mas marami pang pabahay sa mga lugar na masikip na. Ang kailangan ay mas palaguin ang ibang lugar para mabigyan ng rason ang mga tao na manirahan doon,” he said.

Go added that all stakeholders can contribute to the program, especially those in the academe, in order to make sure its implementation will be successful.

“Lahat po pwede magrekomenda at tumulong. Ang problema po kasi paminsan, nauuna ang pagpuna kapag may ginawang hakbang ang gobyerno kaysa sa paghanap ng solusyon. Pag-aralan po muna ng mabuti bago po magbato ng kritisismo. Nakasaad naman po sa Executive Order na long-term at holistic approach po ito,” he said.

EO 114 identified the four key areas of the BP2 program, namely empowerment of local industries; food security and agricultural productivity; social welfare, health and employment; and development of infrastructure.

Among other targets, in the long run, BP2 program seeks to encourage the development of MSME-oriented industries in the countryside, create more livelihood and employment opportunities suitable to rural development, improved education and healthcare facilities and services, maintenance and promotion of peace and order, and even establishment of new special economic zones in the Visayas and Mindanao.

To encourage more industries to relocate also to the countryside and to improve governance and delivery of basic services, BP2 program also calls for decentralization of powers and seat of governance, rationalized and results-based tax incentives for agricultural or tourism industries and creation of new urban centers outside Metro Manila and existing major urban areas.

“Lahat naman po tayo gustong makabangon sa krisis na ito. Lahat tayo nagnanais ng bagong pag-asa para sa ating bayan. Magtulungan at magbayanihan po tayo,” he said.

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