MANILA - At least 85 families have returned to their home province Leyte on Wednesday after the government began the pilot run of its "Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa" (BP2) program.
Of the 3,371 applicants, 111 individuals have been allowed to avail of the government's free transportation and relocation assistance service that seeks to decongest Metro Manila.
"Pag-asa ang gusto nating ibigay sa ating mga kababayang Pilipino sa pagsisimula ulit nila sa probinsya... Walang pilitan ito. Ang lahat ng aalis ngayon [sa Metro Manila] at uuwi sa probinsya ay kusang nagboluntaryo," Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go, the project proponent, said in a statement.
(We want to give hope to our fellow Filipinos who want to start again in provinces... We are not forcing them to return. All those who participated in the program voluntarily expressed their willingness to leave Metro Manila to return to their provinces.)
"Tinitingnan din natin sa pilot testing na ito kung ano pa ang dapat nating i-improve sa BP2 program nang para sa gayon ay magiging mas matagumpay ito sa mga susunod na mga rollout natin sa iba't iba pang parte ng bansa," he said.
(Through this pilot testing, we will look at what needs to be improved in the BP2 program so that it can be more successful the next time we roll it out to other parts of the country.)
Those who wish to avail of the free transportation to their home provinces should test negative for COVID-19 and must acquire health clearances to ensure that will not carry the coronavirus to the countryside.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) released transportation and financial allowance and other forms of assistance, while the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) prepared the buses that would ferry the passengers to Leyte.
The Department of Agriculture gave beneficiaries processed agricultural products as well as starter kits for backyard planting, while the Office of Senator Bong Go also provided food packs, protective masks, and other protective equipment.
A livelihood grant will also be given to them within 15 days after they arrived in their home province, Go said.
"Pagdating naman nila roon, handa rin ang mga ahensyang bigyan sila ng dagdag na ayuda at tulong para sa kanilang magiging kabuhayan, pabahay, trabaho, edukasyon, pagkain, kalusugan at iba pa," he said.
(When they arrive there, the agencies are also ready to give them additional assistance and help them to set up their livelihoods, housing, job placement, education, food and health needs.)
The government is expected to mount free trips to Samar, Negros Occidental, Zamboanga del Norte, Southern Leyte, Bohol, Northern Samar, Camarines Sur, Pangasinan, and Masbate.
Go said the COVID-19 pandemic pushed some Metro Manila residents to return to their respective home provinces.
"Ngayon kasi, apektado sila at naipit sila sa sitwasyon dito. 'Yung iba, stranded. Meron ding hindi nakatanggap ng ayuda dahil ang pamilya nila, sa probinsya nakalista," he said.
(Now, they are affected by the crisis and they are having difficult situations. Some were stranded. There are also those who were not able to receive aid from the government because their names are listed in their hometowns.)
The Trade department earlier said incentives will be given to investors who would open businesses in provinces to spur economic growth in the regions.