TURNING POINT: Reverse Migration: Balik Probinsya

NAAWAN, Misamis Oriental (MindaNews / 31 May) — The inseparable tandem Duterte-Go in the heat of the pandemic suddenly burst out with a very catchy metropolis decongestion program known in the President’s Executive Order 114    as Balik Pobinsya, Bagong Pag-asa. Senator Go, meanwhile sponsored a bill in the Senate to give the program a legislative mandate and assured funding.

The heart of the program is not the decongestion of the metropolis, though it’s the intended effect, but an improved quality of life for poor urban dwellers who thrive in squalid living conditions.

To succeed in this reverse migration, the program must employ the same force that draws poor rural migrants to the metropolis. This is no other than the presence of opportunities to earn a living which the metro has enormous to offer, notwithstanding its harsh living conditions. Without this no other incentive will work for this Balik Probinsya program.

It is imperative that income and livelihood opportunities must be first created in rural destinations and the promised dwellings and farm lots for those who opt to go to farming are already in place before the exodus of prospective beneficiaries could commence. Otherwise, the efforts and resources spent in moving people out of the metropolis will amount to naught. They will be back in the metro’s trash dumpsites, congested esteros and slums in no time at all.

Definitely, not all who want to go back to province are interested in farming but in having a job or work that provides income that can immediately address household needs. For many now accustomed to the cash economy of the metropolis, there is so much uncertainty (bad weather, poor harvest, unpredictable crop prices) in farming not worth the risk of the long wait for the reward of the toil.

In job creation, the agro-industrial economic zones established by past administrations need looking into as to their success in providing income opportunities to rural dwellers and their capacity to absorb more workers. Moreover, if these zones are truly beneficial, there further replication in strategic places throughout the country may yet help the program.

More sweat needs to flow in planning and execution to make the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa program a meaningful success. Otherwise, it will end simply as a catchy sound bite, papogi point of the primary sponsors. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. William R. Adan, Ph.D., is retired professor and former chancellor of Mindanao State University at Naawan, Misamis Oriental, Philippines.)