‘Balik Probinsya’ program to generate more problems in rural areas — Gabriela
MANILA, Philippines – The government’s “Balik Probinsya” program, which focuses on decongesting Metro Manila at a time of a global pandemic, would only translate to more healthcare and economic problems, a women’s group said on Thursday.
The Gabriela party-list explained that the Balik Probinsya, which literally translates to “return to the province,” is a huge risk especially after two persons who returned to Leyte through the program have tested positive for the latest coronavirus strain.
The program was pushed by President Rodrigo Duterte’s long-time aide and now Senator Bong Go to address the ongoing health crisis which has paralyzed most of Luzon, especially Metro Manila.
“Earlier this month, we’ve warned President Duterte that the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa program will create a wave of COVID-19 infections due to the lack of mass testing. Now, Baybay City and Tanauan […] in Leyte have recorded their first coronavirus cases – both returning residents under the national government’s Balik Probinsya program,” Gabriela said.
The progressive group noted that the two cases cannot be set aside and simply be classified as isolated cases, because government failed to test the Balik Probinsya beneficiaries for coronavirus infection.
“This is not an isolated case. In the first place, the government implemented the Balik Probinsya program without testing its beneficiaries, knowing very well that the cases of coronavirus in the country is rising rapidly,” Gabriela noted.
“Second, it cannot possibly ensure balanced regional development with the program if it refuses to implement genuine land reform, national minimum wage, and the repeal of rice liberalization,” they added.
Go proposed the Balik Probinsya program last April, after several workers in Metro Manila who wanted to head back home to their provinces were trapped due to the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).
According to Go, this program is intended to prepare for the new normal that would be sprouting out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, this proposal was met with widespread criticism as it allegedly showed the administration’s penchant for temporary measures instead of long-term solutions.
Gabriela, for its part, believes that the proper response to the COVID-19 pandemic is to provide means of livelihood and accessible healthcare programs.
“We need a long-term response to the coronavirus disease pandemic, and sending the poor to an even more vulnerable setting without healthcare and job opportunities will generate more problems in rural areas,” the group said.
“The government should at least suspend the Balik Probinsya program given the rising cases of COVID-19,” they urged.
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