Press Release
April 26, 2020

Bong Go: "Balik Probinsya" is a tool for empowering the countryside and unburdening Metropolis; proposed program gathers more support

Senator Christopher Lawrence "Bong" Go stressed the need to speed up the development of the countryside by veering away from a centralized approach to governance through a proposed "Balik-Probinsya" program as congestion in Metro Manila proves to be a significant factor in the high number of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in urban areas. Citing latest data from the Department of Health, almost 70% of COVID-19 infection cases are from the National Capital Region.

"Malaking factor po sa mabilis na pagkalat ng COVID-19 sa Metro Manila ang congestion o overcrowding. Sabi nga ng mga eksperto, maraming global pandemics pa po ang mararanasan ng mundo sa hinaharap. Kailangan po natin ng mas proactive at pangmatagalang solusyon dito upang mas maging handa tayo sa hinaharap," Go said.

"Isa sa mga nakikita nating long-term solution dito ay ang pagpapatupad ng 'Balik Probinsya' program para ma-decongest ang ating mga urban centers at mapaunlad ang ibang rehiyon ng bansa," he added.

"Maraming tao rito kaya naman mabilis kumalat ang virus, mas mahirap alagaan ang mga komunidad, at mas mahirap i-manage ang ating resources na maaaring magamit ng ating local government units," Go further said.

"Sa Balik Probinsya program, pag-aaralan natin kung papaano natin magagawa na mas i-empower ang ating mga probinsya upang magkaroon din sila ng kapasidad na tulungan ang kanilang mga nasasakupan," he added.

Meanwhile, support for the "Balik Probinsya" program has started to snowball with key officials of the Executive department expressing support to the Senator's initiative.

The Department of Trade and Industry expressed desire to provide more incentives for businesses that will be put up in provinces to encourage more people to return there because of increased job opportunities. Affirming his support for the "Balik Probinsya" program, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said "we will give more incentives papunta sa probinsya, kaysa sa maglo-locate sa Metro Manila. Ibig sabihin nun, attraction to looking outside." DTI has existing program to develop micro, small and medium enterprises, involving, among others, small business capitalization starting in the barangay level.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development will be preparing to adopt the community-driven development approach in designing its own initiatives to support the "Balik Probinsya" program. This will involve encouraging people affected by disasters or internally displaced persons (IDPs) to return to their original abodes. Eventually, DSWD hopes to address many issues, such as families preferring to stay in big cities for lack of regular sources of income in the province, children enrolled in different schools, housing problem forcing them to live with poor relatives in cramped dwellings, absence of farm land to till, and constrained support system, among others.

Earlier, Go was calling upon the agriculture department to ensure food security and safeguard the welfare of particularly poor farmers and fishers amid the COVID-19 crisis. Department of Agriculture Secretary William Dar, in a press statement, affirmed his full support to the "Balik Probinsya" initiative of Go, recognizing that the proposed measure will "further boost government efforts to attain higher levels of food security."

Dar also mentioned that the program should be well-planned and consider convergence of resettlement, employment and livelihood opportunities, social development, health supply system, infrastructure, and resilient environment.

Despite its booming economy, Go also cited that the Philippines remains a largely agricultural country with plenty of idle lands in the countryside that can be developed.

"The government may facilitate the utilization of some of these idle lands for the productive use of people who will be relocated from Metro Manila and other metropolitan areas," he suggested.

Acting National Economic Development Authority Secretary General and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua admits that the grant of incentives may be revisited since the present system grants the same incentives regardless of the location of a business in the country. But by giving more incentives for new business in the countryside, Chua believes that investors may be lured to 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 businesses in the provinces.

Go emphasized the need to develop the countryside consistent with the policy direction of President Duterte to create robust economic activities and wealth generation outside Metro Manila or other urban centers.

"Hahanapan natin ng paraan upang ganahan ang mga negosyanteng mag-invest o mag-expand sa mga probinsya para naroon na rin ang trabaho at hindi na kailangan ng mga Pilipino doon na magpunta pa sa Metro Manila at lumayo sa kanilang mga pamilya," the Senator said.

"Sa 'Balik Probinsya' program, hindi lang natin maiiwasan ang mas mabilis na pagkalat ng sakit. This proposal is also about equitable distribution of the gains of our fast developing economy, balanced development of the urban and rural areas and poverty alleviation," Go added.

News Latest News Feed