President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday ordered the implementation of the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa Program to decongest Metro Manila and promote countryside development.
Duterte signed Executive Order 114 creating the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa Council, which will provide overall direction in the implementation of the program and ensure compliance of government agencies involved.
The council is headed by the Executive Secretary with the Socioeconomic Planning Secretary as vice chairperson.
Its members include the secretaries of the interior and local government, social welfare and development, agriculture, agrarian reform, trade and industry, labor and employment, health, information and communications technology, finance, budget and management, public works and highways, transportation, tourism, human settlements and urban development, environment and education.
The other members are the chairperson of the Commission of Higher Education and the director general of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority as well as the heads of the Mindanao Development Authority and Cooperative Development Authority.
“The uncontrolled upsurge of population in the National Capital Region brings to the fore longstanding issues on the lack of viable and sustainable employment opportunities in the countryside, unbalanced regional development and unequal distribution of wealth,” the order stated.
“To reverse migration to the NCR and other congested metropolises, as well as to attain rural prosperity through equal distribution of wealth, resources and opportunities, a balanced regional development program to foster socially cohesive, resilient and sustainable rural communities needs to be institutionalized.”
Duterte said the program’s framework covers empowerment of local industries, food security and agricultural productivity, social welfare, health and employment, and infrastructure development.
The council has 30 days to formulate the guidelines for the implementation of the program.
The President also mandated the inter-agency body to submit a biannual report, which will contain the accomplishments and budget utilization.
Duterte’s former top aide, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go, had been pushing for the Balik Probinsya program.
The lawmaker said this will be a long-term solution to prevent future disease outbreaks as it encourages people, particularly informal settlers and those living in danger areas, to move out of Metro Manila and go back to their home provinces.
With a lower population density, local government units in Metro Manila would be able to respond better to health crises, he added.
Majority of the COVID-19 cases in the country were recorded in NCR. -NB, GMA News