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Balik Probinsiya eyed as boost to economy

April 24, 2021 Ryan Ponce Pacpaco 278 views

A Bicolano lawmaker on Saturday appealed to President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte to certify as urgent the Balik Probinsiya program designed to boost investments, create jobs and drive strong growth outside the metropolis—to finally end the country’s traditional overreliance on the Greater Manila Area as its main engine of economic growth and development.

Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte said the presidential endorsement of House Bill (HB) No. 6970, which sets up a national action plan (NAP) for President Duterte’s Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pagasa (BP2) program, will complement the recent presidential endorsement for urgent congressional approval of three pending bills geared to increase foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows to the country.

These three investor-friendly measures endorsed last week as urgent bills by President Duterte are those proposing amendments to the Foreign Investments Act (FIA), Public Service Act (PSA) and the Retail Trade Liberalization Act (RTLA).

The former Camarines Sur governor at the same time called on the House leadership to help accelerate the country’s recovery from the pandemic-induced global economic shock by taking swift action on HB 6970.

“On top of finally decongesting Metro Manila and neighboring urban centers, putting President Duterte’s Balik Probinsya (BP2) program on the fast track via HB 6970 will encourage investors to set up shop in, or expand their present businesses in Greater Manila to, the regions,” said Villafuerte, “thereby leading at last to genuine and vibrant countryside or rural development.”

Last year, the country’s largest business organization with a membership of 35,000 small, medium and large enterprises nationwide gave its full backing to the President’s BP2 initiative, as it endorsed Villafuerte’s HB 6970 on township revitalization amid the drawn-out coronavirus pandemic.

In a letter sent to President Duterte, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) president Ambassador Benedicto Yujuico and former GMA-7 president-CEO Menardo Jimenez, who chairs PCCI’s Balik Probinsya program, said “we all the more must intensify the Balik Probinsya effort,” as it cited “the timeliness and are fully supportive of a bill filed in Congress by (Congressman) Villafuerte, which will provide the basis for ensuring the sustainability of this program.”

In presenting a menu of incentives to foreign and local corporations to invest and create employment outside Greater Manila, Villafuerte said “HB 6970 will put flesh into the BP2 program that President Duterte established last year in the hope of stimulating economic activity and creating quality jobs in the provinces that would expectantly encourage urban workers to return to their home provinces or fresh college graduates and the unemployed to stay put and seek livelihood opportunities in their respective localities.”

Villafuerte, who filed HB 6970 last June, said this Balik Probinsya measure and the three investor-friendly bills—PSA, FIA and RTLA—are actually “complementary” in nature as all four proposals aim to make the Philippines a magnet for investments.

“The approval of these four measures will have the effect of funneling business capital into cities and municipalities outside the National Capital Region (NCR) and its adjacent provinces where economic activity and investments have been concentrated for decades,” he said.

Greater Manila refers to the NCR or Metro Manila and its nearby provinces, including Bulacan on the north and the Calabarzon (Cavite-Laguna-Batangas-Rizal-Quezon) subregion on the east and south.

Villafuerte said the downside of the country’s continuing overdependence on Greater Manila for its growth and development has been highlighted anew in the huge economic repercussions of the recent move by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to reimpose the strict enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) for two weeks in the so-called “NCR Plus” bubble comprising Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal.

As pointed out by Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez, the country lost P180 billion in revenues in the so-called “NCR Plus”—comprising Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizalfrom the two-week ECQ that shaved 1% off the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) of P18 trillion.

Villafuerte said the strict lockdowns in response to the latest coronavirus surge exacted such a huge financial toll on the country because over half the domestic economy is accounted for by NCR and Calabarzon.