Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the government sought a way to decongest Metro Manila by green-lighting the 'Balik-Probinsya' program. Approved by President Duterte last May via Executive Order No. 114, the 'Balik-Probinsya, Bagong Pag-Asa (BP2) program aims to ensure balanced regional development and equal distribution of wealth, resources and opportunities through policies and programs that boost countryside development.
While the government has already sent several citizens back to their respective provinces last month, the government had to temporarily suspend the BP2 program. That's because the government is now focused on helping stranded individuals in Metro Manila get back home to their respective provinces.
According to BP2 Executive Director and National Housing Authority General Manager Marcelino Escalada, stranded OFWs, construction workers, tourists, students, and civilians visiting Metro Manila now have no means of getting back home since President Duterte issued a state of public health emergency. With the public transportation sector not yet fully operational, few domestic travel to and from airports, land ports and seaports, as well as varying requirements from different LGUs, those left stranded have little to no options of leaving Metro Manila.
To help those that are stranded, the government launched the Hatid Tulong program which is aimed to assist stranded individuals in Metro Manila travel back to the province. Unlike the BP2 program which provides incentives and benefits to those that enrolled in the program, the Hatid Tulong program will give priority to those that have no means of traveling back home to their home province.
“As a matter of urgency and importance, mas malaki ang importansya for Hatid Tulong kasi ito yung mga tao na walang bahay at walang enough capacity to finance their stay here in Metro Manila, whereas the Balik Probinsya may sariling bahay either rented houses or owned houses,” said Escalada.
Measures are now being taken to ensure that every stranded individual will be able to get home, while also adhering to physical/social distancing health protocols amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Escalada assured LGUs that before departure, the individuals will have the clearance requirements and that they have been duly tested as some provincial governments have started to impose quarantine measures of their own in order to curb the spread of the virus.