Former UP chancellor hits ‘recycled’ ‘Balik Probinsya’ program of gov’t
MANILA, Philippines — The government should prioritize urban housing for informal settlers instead of sending them back to the provinces under the government’s “Balik Probinsya” program, a medical anthropologist and professor at the University of the Philippines (UP) said Friday.
“‘Yung ‘Balik Probinsya,’ hindi ‘yan bago. Paulit-ulit ‘yan (The ‘Balik Probinsya’ program is no longer new. It has been repeated over and over again),” Michael Tan, also former chancellor at UP Diliman, said in a media forum hosted by the Department of Health (DOH).
“It’s another term for tinatapon lang ang mga mahihirap sa rural areas (It’s another term for dumping the poor to rural areas). That will not be the solution,” he added.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier signed Executive Order No. 114 institutionalizing the “Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa” program that aims to decongest Metro Manila and promote more robust regional development.
The program was a pet project of his ally Senator Christopher “Bong” Go, who has touted it as a long-term response to the coronavirus disease pandemic.
But Tan said there should be a deeper understanding of the problem of informal settlers, vis-a-vis the compounded problem of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis.
“We really have to do something about our problem of urban housing. I would like to urge Senator Bong Go na kailangan talaga mag-research muna at magtanong (that he should research first and ask),” said Tan.
According to the UP professor, the problem on COVID-19 lingers not just in urban areas.
“Kung bumalik ang virus, ang problema natin (If the virus returns, the problem) will be both in urban and rural areas. Let us not complicate matters. We have to find urban housing for our informal settlers. Hindi pwedeng itapon sa probinsya (We cannot just dump them to the provinces),” he also said.
Tan also pointed out that the government should not just focus on providing subsidy for Filipinos during emergencies but instead deal with other preventive measures.
“Ang kailangan nating gawin (is to ask), bakit ba ito nangyari (What we should do is to ask why this situation happened? It’s poverty. Let’s deal with the problem of housing,” he added.
Some 1 million residents of Metro Manila are expected to move to other regions in the next six months under the “Balik Probinsya” program of the national government.
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