MANILA - Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go on Thursday appealed to the national government to provide incentives and livelihood assistance for Filipinos in Metro Manila who wish to go back to their home provinces after Luzon's enhanced community quarantine is lifted.
The government needs to "prepare [a] 'Balik Probinsya' program" as decongesting Metro Manila has become "relevant now more than ever as the country struggles to contain the further spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)," Go said in a statement.
"Paghandaan na natin ang ‘new normal’ at isa sa pinaka-importanteng hakbang na dapat nating gawin ay ang paglilipat ng mga tao mula sa mga siyudad papunta sa mga probinsiya," he said.
(We have to prepare for the "new normal", and one of the most important steps we have to do is to relocate people from cities to provinces.)
Go said the "lack of urban planning and rural development" has affected the spread of COVID-19 and has also "slowed down" the distribution of government relief in congested communities.
"Kailangan talaga i-develop ang iba pang probinsiya para mabawasan ang tao sa Metro Manila. Masyadong masikip dito, mabilis kumalat ang sakit. Masyado ring maraming tao, hirap na hirap tayong maalagaan lahat ng apektado [ng sakit],” Go said.
(We really have to develop provinces to reduce the number of people in Metro Manila. It is too congested so diseases easily spread. There are also too many people here that's why we are having a very hard time caring for those affected by the disease.)
"Kung hahayaan lang natin na patuloy na magsikip ang mga tao sa Kamaynilaan, mas mataas ang tyansa na manumbalik na naman ang pagkalat ng virus,” he said.
(If we disregard Metro Manila's congestion, there is a higher chance that the virus will continue to spread.)
Under Go's proposed "Balik Probinsya" program, the government will shoulder the transportation of families willing to permanently relocate to provinces, and also provide them livelihood options.
Those who wish to leave Metro Manila for good will have to undergo coronavirus testing to ensure that they will not spread the disease in regions, Go said.
The senator also encouraged investors to "to bring their businesses to the province" to help spur development and employment opportunities in rural areas.
As of the latest census, there are 12.87 million people living in the capital region.
It accounts for about 12.8 percent of the Philippine population in 2015, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.