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Mindanao preparing for Balik-Probinsya beneficiaries' homecoming.

By Mario Casayuran

Senator Christopher "Bong" Go on Thursday threw his support for the ongoing preparations of various local government units (LGUs) in Mindanao for the beneficiaries of the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa (BP2) Program.

Go, the author of the BP2 program, said ensuring the availability of economic opportunities in local communities would boost regional development consistent with the long-term goals of the program that is set to be fully implemented after the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis.

"The purpose of this program is to provide new hope for the Filipinos who want to have better future after the crisis and they will be assisted if they want to go back to their respective provinces," he said.

To successfully implement the BP2 program, Go said that it is important for national agencies to conduct proper coordination with LGUs to ensure that health protocols are in place and local communities would be capable of providing economic opportunities to their constituents.

Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) Chairman Emmanuel Pinol disclosed that the BP2 Council member agencies recently concluded a series of consultations with various LGU officials in preparation for those who wish to be relocated to the provinces.

Pinol expressed hope that three villages established as resettlement sites would serve as a template for future communities once the BP2 program is fully implemented. These resettlement villages are in Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte; Sergio Osmena, Zamboanga del Norte; and Kalawit, Zamboanga del Norte.

Each community, composed of 200 families from Metro Manila, will undertake a common production activity - organic broiler chicken and vegetables production (in Kauswagan); high-value vegetables and free-range chicken (Sergio Osmena); and tree farming with cacao and coffee intercrop, and free-range chicken production (Kalawit).

In a previous statement, Go said: "There are still hundreds of hectares of agricultural lands and unlimited water resources that can be utilized for livelihood in the provinces. Agriculture and food security play a big role in regional development."

In an interview, Pinol clarified that the BP2 Program Council's decision to postpone subsequent rollouts of the program would give the concerned local governments more time to prepare.

The Kauswagan village, he continued, is expected to open in early September of this year.

As of June 17, 2020, the BP2 program has almost 90,000 enrollees.

The BP2 Program Council is currently doing necessary ground preparations for subsequent roll outs, such as close coordination with the receiving LGUs to give them more time to prepare for the arrival of BP2 beneficiaries who expressed willingness to relocate to their provinces for good, according to National Housing Authority General Manager and BP2 Program Executive Director Marcelino Escalada, Jr.

In the meantime, the government is prioritizing various "Hatid-Tulong" initiatives for locally stranded individuals.

"Habang nilalabanan natin ang COVID-19, ihanda na rin natin ang mga probinsya para sa mga nais nang lumipat upang mabigyan ang mga Pilipino ng mas maayos na buhay pagkatapos malampasan ang krisis na ito (While we are fighting the COVID-19, let us prepare the provinces for those who want to transfer and provide the Filipinos with better lives after overcoming this crisis)," Go said.

Go, chairman of the Senate health and demography committee, stated that government synergy would be a key factor in helping Filipinos recover from the crisis.

He said that the success of BP2 Program would also depend on the widespread and active participation of key government agencies in boosting economic opportunities in the provinces.

Go proposed the BP2 upon realizing that congestion in Metro Manila has been a perennial roadblock for development and is one of the key factors in the very high number of COVID-19 infection cases.

"Dahil sa dikit-dikit na mga bahay, pagkumpol-kumpol ng mga tao, mas madaling kumalat ang sakit sa Metro Manila. Halos 70 percent ng mga kaso ng mga impeksyon at mga namatay dahil sa COVID-19 ay nasa Metro Manila (COVID-19 infection runs very fast in densely populated areas in Metro Manila. Almost 70 percent of the injection and death rates due to COVID-19 are in Metro Manila)," he said.

The BP2 Program Council, created under Executive Order 114 issued by President Duterte to institutionalize the program, is at present crafting policies that would accelerate countryside socio-economic development.

The EO came after Go authored Senate Resolution 380 which was adopted by the Senate during its plenary session on May 4. The resolution urged the executive department to formulate and implement the BP2 program.

According to the EO, the BP2 Program will bring "balanced regional development and equitable distribution of wealth, resources, and opportunities through policies and programs that boost countryside development and inclusive growth."

The program will also provide adequate social services to its people, promote employment, and focus on key areas, such as empowerment of local industries, food security, and infrastructure development in rural areas.

In the long-run, the inter-agency council expects that more secondary economic growth hubs would be created in the provinces.

This includes the establishment of special economic zones, particularly in the Visayas and Mindanao.

Economic planners also agree that there is a need to revisit how government provides incentives to investors to encourage them to invest in the countryside.

"Kami po ni Pangulong Duterte ay probinsyano rin. Taga-Davao po kami. Doon po kami lumaki, at tulad ng ibang mga probinsyano, doon rin namin nais bumalik pagkatapos ng aming pagseserbisyo sa bayan (I and President Duterte are also from the province. We are from Davao, We grew up there, just like the others from the provinces, we would also like to go back after our services to the nation)," Go said.

"As PRRD (Duterte) said, starting fresh in the provinces would give Filipinos hope for a better future after COVID-19 crisis.

Sa pagbabalik sa probinsya, mabibigyan sila ng bagong pag-asa (In going back to the province, they will be given new hope)," he added.


Sen. Bong Go (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)
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Title Annotation:National; Mindanao, Philippines
Author:Casayuran, Mario
Publication:Manila Bulletin
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Jun 18, 2020
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