With the continued rise of coronavirus cases in the country, the Enhanced Community Quarantine has been extended to last until May 15, 2020. However, not all areas of the country are under the ECQ as some with low-to-moderate risks are only placed under General Community Quarantine. With it, these areas have a more relaxed set of guidelines for the public to follow.
But should the GCQ become the new normal for the next couple of months (perhaps even up to next year), some in the government are thinking of new ways to help prevent such issues in the future. One program that was suggested is called “Balik-Probinsiya” which was brought up by Senator Bong Go.
“Nakita naman natin ang masamang epekto at hirap dulot ng sobrang pagsikip ng mga tao at pamamahay. Katulad sa Metro Manila, mas mabilis kumalat ang sakit, at mas nahihirapan ang ating national government at ang mga local government units na alagaan ang lahat ng apektado ng krisis na kinakaharap natin,” said Go.
[We saw the devastation and hardship caused by overcrowding of people and homes. Like in Metro Manila, the disease is able to spread faster, and our national government and local government units are having a hard time taking care of everyone affected by the crisis we face.]
The Senator also mentioned that many are stranded here in Metro Manila ever since the ECQ was imposed. Since they cannot go home, some of them might not even receive social amelioration as this might be duplicated because their relatives live in the province. With this in mind, Go is mulling to spur economic activity in the provinces to generate business and jobs.
“Simulan na natin paghandaan at atin nang aksyunan ang isyung ito at huwag nang antayin pa na mas lumala pa ang problema. Kailangan magkaroon ng gobyero ng long-term solutions upang matugunan ito,” added Go.
[Let's start preparing and addressing this issue and let's not wait for the problem to get worse. The government needs to have long-term solutions to address this.]
The cities within Metro Manila has a very high population density when compared to the capitals and cities of other countries. Based on the 2015 census, the National Capital Region has a population density of 20,785 persons per square kilometer. There are over 12.8 million people living and working in Metro Manila (which can some times balloon to over 20 million people on a weekday) all bunched up in 620 square kilometers of usable space, it's quite clear that Metro Manila is congested.
The City of Manila, Pateros, and Mandaluyong has the distinction of being the three most densely populated cities in the world. Areas with a very high population density lead to higher traffic congestion and higher vulnerability to outbreaks.
The 45-year old Senator did say that there are currently hurdles to this type of program. For starters, there is a lack of long-term urban planning and rural developments for the past decades. As a result, many of those living in provinces moved to Metro Manila since there are more opportunities there. Go's solution is that once the ECQ has been lifted and travel restrictions are normalized, the government must encourage Filipino families to move out of Manila and other metropolitan areas.
“The government must provide them the means and incentives to go back to the provinces for good. LGUs must also ensure that necessary quarantine measures and mass-testing for COVID-19 are in place to prevent those possibly infected from spreading the disease,” the Senator added.
Go said that as early as now, the government must prepare the provinces and that they have the capacity to take care of those that went back to their respective provinces. They must also have the means to have a house, as well as food and resources to get by. Incentives to those that seek to open micro, small or medium enterprises will also be provided. Once this is done, Go believes that this will decongest Metro Manila, as well as help, improve the economies of the province thanks to the planned business/work opportunities.