TRADE and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said Friday that the government would provide incentives for businesses that will open in the provinces to support the “Balik Probinsya” (return to the province) effort to ease congestion in Metro Manila.

“We can give more incentives papuntang probinsya, kaysa sa (for those going to the provinces, than) incentives sa maglolocate sa (for those that will locate in) Metro Manila. Ibig sabihin (in other words), more attraction to looking outside,” he said during the pre-recorded briefing given by President Rodrigo R. Duterte and selected cabinet members on Friday morning.

In a mobile message sent to reporters, Mr. Lopez said that incentives include additional years of income tax holidays (ITH) for companies relocating outside Metro Manila. He said domestic sales will be credited as export sales to enable companies to avail of incentives.

In a statement he read during the briefing, Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” T. Go said that the lack of long-term urban planning, rural development, and livelihood opportunities forced people from the provinces to move to Metro Manila. “As soon as the enhanced community quarantine is lifted and travel is gradually normalized, the government must encourage families to move out of Manila and other metropolitan areas. Government must provide them the means and incentives to go back to provinces for good,” he said.

Meanwhile, Albay Rep. and House ways and means committee chair Jose Maria Clemente S. Salceda said that the reforms they have been pushing in Congress, especially the Corporate Income Tax and Incentives Rationalization Act (CITIRA), are “structurally biased towards incentivizing countryside development.”

“While NCR (National Capital Region) projects get three years of ITH (income tax holiday) and two years enhanced deductions, adjacent provinces get four years of ITH and three years of enhanced deductions. Even better, areas outside these regions get six years of ITH and four years of enhanced deductions,” he noted.

Mr. Salceda added that companies which invest in agribusiness or which relocate to areas recovering from armed conflict or a major disaster also get an additional two years of ITH and one year of enhanced deductions for each of those criteria.

“We must, however, invest in the fundamentals of our provinces: meaning, investments in technical skills and improvements in public education, increased and easier access to capital, and agricultural modernization. We need an economic ecosystem that will support growth in the countryside,” the lawmaker said.

Mr. Salceda also pushed for stronger urban-rural linkages by strengthening the country’s physical and information infrastructure.

“We need faster internet in the provinces, and an improved transport network between urban centers and the countryside. In other words, we need to sustain our investment in Build, Build, Build and make our telecommunications sector more geographically inclusive,” he said.

DoubleDragon Properties Corp, a real estate development company, voiced its support for the Balik Probinsya program of the government.

“We 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,” DoubleDragon Chair Edgar J. Sia III said in a statement Friday.

DoubleDragon’s CityMalls are located in the provincial areas all over the country which mainly provide “basic essential needs of the provincial community it serves.”

The firm said it continues to expand its Industrial Warehouse Complex chain CentraHub, Hotel 101 and Jinjiang Inn Phils chain in various provinces.

“For several years, DoubleDragon has been active in deploying capital to the countryside and will continue its vision further in parallel with the strategic Balik Probinsya Program of the government,” it said. — Genshen L. Espedido