Before this COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019), we had always thought that congestion was just something we can live with, like a “necessary evil.” Our politicians did little to solve the problem, among the many reasons being that densely populated areas in the cities bring votes for them. These are the slum areas where they think they can dangle anything to win votes.
At a time where social distancing becomes what they call new normal, congestion becomes the real enemy. To tell people to keep distance in a place where they cannot even move is unrealistic.
I am glad that on Wednesday this week, President Rodrigo Duterte issued an executive order creating the Balik-Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa Council. The council is tasked to craft the guidelines and framework in institutionalizing the Balik-Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa Program. The said program is aimed at decongesting highly urbanized cities. In other words, people have to be persuaded to go return to the provinces, but we have to set in place the necessary programs.
Once we have economically vibrant rural areas, many would be inclined to return to the place of their birth, to be with their families and relatives, and childhood friends. And those, who are still in the province, will not be inclined to come to the cities for greener pasture because the greener pasture they are talking about is within their sights.
Businesses have to be brought to the provinces. What come with businesses are employment opportunities. And when people are employed or have decent sources of income, their purchasing capacity increases. Of course, we do not just push businesses to the provinces. They should be provided with incentives.
The potentials in the rural areas are untapped. The scandalous economic disparity and other disparities between the rural areas and the urban areas have stunted our national growth. That’s a no brainer. Just like any abnormal growth in any part of person’s body, any growth in just few parts of the country is simply unacceptable.
Power is concentrated in the cities, and the provinces are left to beg for whatever little that is left for them. This grave injustice has to be corrected.
Men and women of good intention tried to address this problem, but I think their efforts have proved to be not enough. Those who endeavored to at least have a respectable share of the country’s wealth fought for local autonomy in terms of budget and other powers. We commend them for their efforts. But it appears that those who benefit from the disparity are not ready to give way.
We must insist.
(My views in this column can also be heard over my primetime radio commentary program in DYHP RMN Cebu 612 AM and 93.9 iFM, 6:00-9:00, Mondays to Saturdays.)
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