Calls for ‘bayanihan’ to give Filipinos hope of better future after COVID-19 crisis
Senator Christopher “Bong” Go welcomed the support from the private sector as various groups expressed intent to participate and contribute to the government’s push for accelerated regional development through the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa (BP2) program. The Senator encouraged more businesses to follow suit and invest in areas outside the country’s urban centers.
“(I)sa sa mga layunin ng ‘Balik Probinsya’ program ang pagsigurong handa at kaaya-aya ang mga probinsya para sa mga bagong negosyong ipapatayo ng mga mamumuhunan,” said Go.
Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) President Benedicto Yujuico stated that the BP2 program aligned with their stance to focus growth priority to farming and fishery, which in turn should develop rural economies, in a position paper submitted to the House last May. Agriculture and agri-business are the two top technical skills BP2 applicants choose to pursue.
“Kapag nasa probinsya, pwede naman mag-invest rin kung ‘yung mga local government very interested sa mga investment (para) magkaroon ng trabaho doon… talagang maganda ‘yun kung babalik sa probinsya,” PCCI Chair Sergio Ortiz-Luis said in a separate interview last April.
Senator Go also welcomed the statements by real estate firms Italpinas Development Corporation (IDC) and DoubleDragon Properties Corp. which hailed the government initiative as an opportunity to build sustainable cities and communities. IDC CEO Romolo Nati expressed enthusiasm for the government’s revived emphasis to grant incentives for people to return to the provinces, saying:
“This is an incredible opportunity that has to be played properly. More sustainable developments will have to [rise] in the new wave’s cities and all over the country,” Nati said.
“There is a need and a desire of a fresh start that can be both creative and bold. Filipinos have their chance to design their new cities in the provinces to make them a model of sustainable architecture in Southeast Asia and the world,” he added.
In a separate statement, DoubleDragon Chair Edgar “Injap” Sia II stated that they “commend and fully support the Balik Probinsya Program of the Philippine Government. We are one with the belief that the second and third tier provincial areas of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao need to be further incentivized to become more vibrant significantly in terms of their economy.”
Their remarks were echoed by Michael McCullough, Managing Director of real estate services company KMC Savills. The BP2 program would slow down urbanization in Metro Manila, he said in a virtual meeting. The work-from-home arrangement employed by companies would encourage property developers to build projects that were more convenient for employees.
“We are seeing a lot of clients scrabble for decentralized locations. Many of our call center clients have contacted us saying, ‘We need locations closer to our agents,’” he said.
The Senator previously called on various government agencies to establish policies and regulations which would contribute to an environment conducive to the creation and growth of enterprises.
In the 4th edition (May 18, 2020) of the “Philippine Government Stimulus Package” policy paper published by SGV & Co. Philippines, one of the country’s leading accounting firm, the Investment Priorities Plan (IPP) was identified as essential in aligning businesses with the BP2 program. The 2020 IPP of the Board of Investment, an annual listing of priority economic activities, will offer incentives to businesses located in greenfield areas.
The same policy paper also highlighted various grants for small businesses, such as those offered by the trade department, as one of the sectoral interventions to ensure business resiliency.
These efforts will be complemented by the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) Act, now pending in Congress, which shall offer incentives to enterprises registered in areas outside of major cities such as Metro Manila as well as less developed areas previously determined by the National Economic Development Authority.
“Para maabot natin ang hinahangad na kaunlaran, dapat nating simulan na ang pagpaplano ng national at local government units na gumawa na ng trade and industry roadmap at polisiya para tiyak na makukuha nating mag-invest ang mga negosyo sa probinsya,” Go explained.
NEDA Secretary Karl Chua earlier concurred that the program would lure investors in other parts of the country. He suggested that the current system which granted the same incentives regardless of the location of a business could be revisited. Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez likewise lent his support for the initiative by offering to provide additional incentives to enterprises located outside Metro Manila.
“Gusto naming suportahan ang proposal ni Senator Bong. Puwede naming suportahan ‘yun by pushing the investments papunta doon. How do we do push it? More incentives. Sa ngayon, we can give more incentives papuntang probinsya kesa sa incentives na maglo-locate sa Metro Manila. More attraction to looking outside. Kapag andun ang incentives, magkakaroon rin ng trabaho doon,” Lopez said.
New and existing micro, small and medium enterprises could be assisted by the Department of Trade and Industry’s various programs for assistance, namely the Livelihood Seeding Program – Negosyo sa Barangay; Pondo sa Pagbabago at Pag-asenso, an enterprise rehabilitation program; and Pangkabuhayan sa Pagbangon at Ginhawa Program for victims of the pandemic, among others.
Over the weekend, Department of Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato dela Peña announced the nearing launch of the Expanded Opportunities for Development through the Use of Science and Technology program which shall provide technical assistance to investors in a bid to generate employment opportunities for BP2 beneficiaries. Key growth areas were identified which included Batangas and Cebu.
In early May, President Rodrigo Duterte signed Executive Order 114, institutionalizing the BP2 program and creating an inter-agency council to oversee its implementation. The program has 77,446 applications, as of June 1, 2020.
“Noon, wala pong may gustong mag-implement nito. Pero ngayon, may political will to implement. Ngayon, nandiyan si Pangulong Duterte, may political will to implement,” the Senator said.