PLAN FOR RETURNEES. The National Economic and Development Authority regional office in Palo, Leyte. The newly-created committee being led by NEDA is currently drafting a regional action plan for Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa (BP2) program to assist thousands of Region 8 residents stranded by the pandemic in Metro Manila. (PNA file photo)

TACLOBAN CITY – As thousands displaced by the pandemic in Metro Manila have expressed their intention to return to Region 8, the Eastern Visayas Regional Development Council (RDC) is eyeing to complete the Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-Asa (BP2) regional action plan by November. 

National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Eastern Visayas assistant regional director Annielyn Costiniano said the formulation of the plan is now ongoing and will be discussed by the RDC during its fourth quarter meeting in November. The committee immediately moved to draft the plan since Eastern Visayas ranks as the top destination for returnees under the BP2 program based on applications received by the National Housing Authority (NHA), the BP2’s secretariat.

As of Sept. 1, there are already 21,365 applicants residing in Metro Manila who expressed their desire to return to Leyte and Samar provinces. The plan being drafted by members of the BP2 regional committee, is centered on the empowerment of local industries; food security and agricultural productivity; housing, social welfare, health, employment, and human resource development; and infrastructure development.

 “The formulation of (the) plan covers the committee’s mandate to coordinate the BP2 activities in the region and advise the RDC in formulating policies to ensure the effective and efficient implementation of the BP2 projects,” Costiniano said in a phone interview on Wednesday. The committee held a virtual meeting on Sept. 4 presided by Cabinet Officer for Regional Development and Security (CORDS) for Eastern Visayas Secretary Eduardo Del Rosario. 

“The alternative is to create livelihood opportunities in the provinces, in the region, so they will not be tempted anymore to migrate in the metropolis,” said del Rosario, the committee chair, during the virtual meeting. The committee, with NEDA regional director as the vice-chairperson, is tasked to provide technical guidance to agencies, local government units, and other private organizations in conceptualizing, designing, and financing of BP2 projects. 

The committee under the RDC, is the counterpart of the national BP2 council. On top of assessing the progress of BP2, the body will also take a wider role in informing the public of the goals and objectives of the program. The body will ask local governments to identify projects and activities that support BP2 objectives, ensure convergence of all local efforts, facilitate and assist in the effective implementation of projects, align local projects with national priorities, ensure proper handling and management local investment incentives, and monitor program implementation in their areas.

 Launched in June this year, BP2 aims to address Metro Manila’s congested urban areas by encouraging people, especially informal settlers, to return to their home provinces and help them in this transition with support and incentives on transportation, family, livelihood, housing, subsistence, and education, among others. (PNA)