Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go on May 20, 2020, lauded the official launching of the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa (BP2) Program as a testament of President Rodrigo Duterte’s political will and his administration’s commitment to help poor urban families return to their home provinces and start anew with new-found hope for a better life.
The BP2 program was launched in Quezon City with a send-off of the first batch of 112 individuals returning to the province of Leyte.
In an interview at the send-off ceremonies, Go pointed out while there were similar programs under past administrations, it is only under the present administration that the program got fully underway.
“Ngayon lang po merong political will ang ating gobyerno, si Pangulong Duterte, na i-implementa ang programang ito. Pinirmahan niya ang executive order para po magtulungan ang lahat ng resources ng gobyerno para po makatulong sa mga kababayan natin na gusto nang umuwi (It is only now that our government has the political will, President Duterte, to implement this program. He signed the EO to coordinate government resources help our countrymen who wished to return to the provinces),” he said.
The BP2 program was institutionalized after President Duterte signed Executive Order No. 114, to “ensure balanced regional development and equitable distribution of wealth, resources and opportunities through policies and programs that boost countryside development and inclusive growth; provide adequate social services; and promote full employment, industrialization and an improved quality of life in rural areas.”
Go, chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography and Balik Probinsya proponent, said the launching of the BP2 program came in the most opportune time as many “probinsyanos” (province folks) living or working in urban areas, particularly Metro Manila, have expressed their willingness to go home after their painful experiences during the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
As a probinsyano himself, Go said he understands the fascination of the people with Metro Manila as a center of education, employment, as well as entertainment.
“Halos lahat kami fascinated dito sa Metro Manila. Pero bakit ngayun marami ng gustong umuwi? Kasi marami na pong nadala. Ngayon po sila apektado at naipit sila sa sitwasyon dito (Almost all of us were fascinated with Metro Manila. But why is it that many wanted to go home now? It’s because many have had it. They were affected and stranded by the situation here),” he said.
Go, however, clarified that the program is not mandatory for those who wished to stay in the cities.
For those who will avail of the program, he assured that the government is there to assist them with all their needs.
“Bibigyan po kayo ng Duterte administration ng bagong pag-asa pag-uwi nyo po sa inyong mga probinsya. Ang gagawin nyo lang po ay umuwi kayo at trabaho na po ng gobyerno kung papaano kayo papauwiin (The Duterte administration will give you fresh hope upon your return to your provinces. All you have to do is go home and it will be the responsibility of government on how you could get home),” Go said, citing the provisions provided by various national government agencies for the first batch of BP2 beneficiaries.
Under EO 114, almost all agencies of the Executive department are part of the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa Council.
The returnees to Leyte underwent testing and other quarantine protocols from the Department of Health (DOH) to ensure that they would not be carriers of the dreaded virus to their respective communities.
They were provided by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) with transportation assistance, food packs, hygiene kits, family kits, and other non-food items.
Go said his office, along with several private entities, have also extended additional financial support to the returnees.
Upon their arrival in their home destination, their respective local government units (LGUs) will be on hand to welcome them and endorse them to the regional offices of national government agencies for assessment on what type of livelihood or job they are most fitted.
Go said the housing needs of BP2 beneficiaries would also be provided under the long-term phase of the program.
“Sa abot po ng makakaya ng ating gobyerno, gagawin po namin ang lahat (The government will do everything to the best of its capabilities),” he stressed.
As a legislator, Go likewise assured that he will continuously think of legislative measures that would help Duterte’s BP2 program succeed.
Already pending in the Senate is a proposed measure seeking to provide additional incentives to investors and businesses that would invest in the countryside.
“Pag dumami ang mga factories, plants, o mamumuhunan sa probinsya, mas maraming trabaho na pwede nilang ibigay para sa mga bablik sa probinsya (If factories, plants or investors increase in the countryside, there would more employment opportunities to the returnees),” Go said.
He has also filed Senate Bill No. 203, or the “National Housing Development, Production and Financing (NHDPF) Act of 2019,” which aims to significantly reduce the country’s housing backlog through continuous funding support.
Go, however, admitted that there is no assurance that BP2 beneficiaries would not go back to Metro Manila or other urban centers.
Nevertheless, he urged his fellow probinsyanos to avail of the program and stay in the province, since government will always be there to help them.
“Sa mga kapatid kong Pilipino, sa mga Bisaya, Ilonggo, Ilocano, sa mga uuwi sa probinsya, huwag po kayong mawalan ng pag-asa, nandito naman po ang gobyerno. Kailangan lang po natin ng kooperasyon ng bawat Pilipino para malampasan po natin itong nangyari sa atin (To my fellow Filipinos, Bisaya, Ilonggos, or Ilocanos, to those going back to the provinces do not lose hope, the government is always here. All we need is a little cooperation from every Filipino to overcome this problem),” he said.
“Basta kami po ni Pangulong Duterte at sa adminsitration, lahat ng mga agencies na kasama sa BP2 program, magtutulungan po tayo at makauwi po kayo sa inyong mga probinsya na ligtas (President Duterte and everyone of us in the administration, including all the agencies that are part of the BP2 program, we must all work together and you will safely return to your provinces,” he added. (Jose Cielito Reganit, PNA)