Several weeks ago, Senator Bong Go suggested a program called “Balik Probinsya” which is aimed at decongesting Metro Manila, while also helping those living in the provinces have a better quality of life.

Now, the Balik-Probinsya program has just been given the go-ahead by President Rodrigo Duterte. Through Executive Order No. 114, the President has institutionalized the “Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-Asa” (BP2) program.

Under the new E.O., the BP2 program aims 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 improved quality of life in rural areas'.

To ensure that the BP2 program's policies will be implemented properly, the President has created a council that will oversee the BP2 program. Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea will serve as council chairperson while Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua will serve as Vice-Chairperson.

Other members of the council will include Secretaries and other officials of government agencies. These include the DILG, DSWD, DA, DOLE, DOF, DPWH, DTI, DOTr, DepEd, CHED, DENR, as well as TESDA. Each department will be tasked with assisting in the making of several programs that will help in the development of the provinces.

President Duterte green lights Balik-Probinsya program image

The BP2 council will be tasked to formulate within 30 days the guidelines necessary to implement the new program. They are also tasked with building the framework, as well as set the overall direction of the BP2 program.

The BP2 framework will be split into four key areas – empowerment of local industries; food security and agricultural productivity; social welfare, health, and employment; and development of infrastructure. Each framework component will be categorized as short-term, medium-term, and long-term programs, activities, or projects.

Initial funding for the BP2 program will be charged against existing appropriations of the member agencies of the council, and from sources to be identified by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM). Funding requirements for the succeeding years, however, will be included in the respective budgets of government agencies implementing the BP2 program.

There are still hurdles, however, before the BP2 program can come into full swing. For starters, there is a lack of long-term urban planning and rural developments in the provinces. There’s also the matter of convincing those that moved to Metro Manila, to go back to their respective provinces while the government has yet to provide the resources, means, housing, incentives, as well as the opportunities that workers and business owners need. Senator Go, however, believes that once this program has been implemented properly, not only will this free up space in Metro Manila, it will also help the economies of the provinces thanks to the planned business/work opportunities.

While Metro Manila has an estimated population of 12.8 million, that number can sometimes balloon to 20 million due to those from the provinces who come into work on weekdays. Perhaps the BP2 program will actually help free up space in the National Capital Region. But until the BP2 council comes with up the necessary guidelines and the COVID-19 pandemic dies down, all we can do for now is wait.