MARAWI CITY: Four of six localities that agreed to accept disadvantaged local migrants in big cities in the “Balik Probinsiya” (return to the province) program are in Mindanao, according to a top Mindanao official.
Manny Piñol, Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) chairman, identified the four localities as Zamboanga del Norte, Kauswagan in Lanao del Norte, Malaybalay in Bukidnon and M’lang in North Cotabato.
The other two outside Mindanao are the provinces of Leyte and Camarines Sur.
The program has been upgraded to tap the returning families, now residing in cramped residential areas in Metro Manila, Cebu and Davao, to be engaged in a specific economic activity that has been already identified by these willing LGUs.
The industries identified would be supported by any or all of the 22 national government agencies that have been tasked to provide the assistance.
Kauswagan town has identified vegetable farming and organic broiler production as their focused industry for these returning residents.
Officials in Malaybalay said they would also tap their returning residents in vegetable farming and strawberry growing.
The town of M’lang has opted to organize an organic native chicken growing with complete value-chain support network.
The entire Zamboanga del Norte province was likely to go into agriculture or fisheries-based industry and hoped that the program could help it get away from the list of poorest provinces in the Philippines.
Each of these willing LGUs was willing to accommodate as many as 200 families.
In a Facebook post on Saturday, Piñol said the program would like to correct the “wrong” policy in concentrating development in the urban centers while neglecting the needs of the poor in the countryside.
Piñol also rebutted a claim by a former academician that the move was merely a recycled program of “throwing poor families back to the countryside.”
He said the program was now being supported by 22 departments and agencies and was “not just a reaction to the problems seen in the containment of a pandemic like the Covid-19 [coronavirus disease 2019] in over-populated areas, but an admission by the government of flawed policies in the equitable sharing of government resources.”
“This has resulted in a massive migration to the big cities, or even overseas, and stunted the development of the countryside causing very low productivity and widespread poverty,” Piñol added. “This program is the start of the shift of development efforts to the countryside where it is most needed and where the poverty level is high.”
He said government has ordered agencies and departments to focus more resources and funds for farm roads, irrigation, storage, and processing facilities and ensure market access to ensure its success.
He also hoped government economic planners and budget managers to increase Mindanao’s share of the national budget pie “from the current 12 percent (16 percent according to the national government) to a more equitable share.”
“Soon, there may be no need for the women from Mindanao to work in the Middle East and there will be no need for us to depend on foreign sources for our food supply,” Piñol said.
MASIDING NOOR YAHYA/RSP