President Rodrigo Duterte on May 6 signed Executive Order 114 to implement the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa Program which aims to decongest Metro Manila and encourage regional development.
Executive Order 114 also orders for creation of the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa Council.
“The State shall 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 an improved quality of life in rural areas,” the EO stated.
The inter-agency council is responsible for the overall direction and implementation of the program, as well as assuring adherence to the guidelines from the different agencies.
The Executive Secretary will serve as chairperson and the Socioeconomic Planning Secretary will serve as vice chairperson.
Members of the council include the secretaries of the departments of 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 chairperson of the Commission of Higher Education (CHED) and the director general of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) are also part of the council, along with heads of the Mindanao Development Authority and Cooperative Development Authority.
The National Capital Region (NCR) stands as the most densely populated region in the country due to career opportunities, advancements in technology, and overall development. Though good for the capital, the country’s other provinces and regions do not see the same opportunities.
“The uncontrolled upsurge of population in the (NCR) brings to the fore longstanding issues on the lack of viable and sustainable opportunities in the countryside, unbalanced regional development and unequal distribution of wealth.”
The EO has the goal “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 covers of the strengthening and establishing the region’s own industries, food supply, agricultural productivity, social welfare, health, employment, and infrastructure.
The council has 30 days to create the guidelines for the implementation of the program.
The inter-agency council is also mandated to submit a biannual report, which details accomplishments and a budget breakdown.
Senator Christopher “Bong” Go expressed the need for the Balik Probinsya program. He said that it would serve as a solution to prevent the outbreak of future diseases, as it can urge citizens to vacate Metro Manila and return to their provinces.
Due to high population density in Metro Manila, risk of transmitting COVID-19 from person to person is higher. Majority of the country’s cases were registered in NCR. Go said that if Metro Manila had an overall lower population density, local government units would be able to respond to future health crises more efficiently.