‘Balik Probinsya’ halted to focus first on stranded people
The government’s newly launched “Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa” (Back to the Province, New Hope) program has been suspended so that authorities can focus on helping repatriated Filipino migrant workers and stranded people return to their hometowns, National Housing Authority General Manager Marcelino Escalada said on Thursday.
Escalada, executive director of the Balik Probinsya council, said Metro Manila was hosting thousands of migrant workers, as well as students, construction workers and tourists who were stranded when the government imposed a lockdown on Luzon in March to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.
Different from Balik
The government is helping them return to their hometowns by providing them with transportation and coordinating with local governments under its “Hatid Tulong” (Assistance) program.
The operation is different from Balik Probinsya, a long-term program to help nonnatives of Metro Manila return to their provinces and stay there permanently.
Escalada said the needs of the repatriated migrants and stranded people were more urgent at this time.
“These are the people who don’t have homes and don’t have enough capacity to finance their stay here in Metro Manila. Whereas the Balik Probinsya [beneficiaries] have their own homes, whether rented or owned houses, in Metro Manila,” he said in the televised briefing.
“Since these populations have become mixed up, I decided, as a matter of strategy, to suspend the rollouts for the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa to give way [to Hatid Tulong], since this was a very clear instruction from the President to send home Filipinos stranded in Metro Manila,” he added.
The Balik Probinsya program will resume when the number of stranded people is reduced, and this is likely to happen when the government relaxes quarantine restrictions and allows more flights, buses and other forms of public transportation to operate, he said.
Balik Probinsya could resume after a month, he added.
But when it resumes, there will be a new requirement for beneficiaries before they can go back to their provinces, Escalada said. There must be official communication from the provincial governors and municipal mayors that they are ready to accept beneficiaries of the program, he said.
Balik Probinsya has so far sent 112 people home to Leyte province.
The program was launched in May and as of June 4, it had 79,000 applicants.
Under the scheme, the government provides assistance, such as transportation and allowances, to those who would like to relocate to urban or rural areas in the regions.
It will also help beneficiaries with housing and in getting jobs or starting a new livelihood.
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