THE GOVERNMENT has allocated P3.2 billion for the “Balik Probinsya” program in the proposed P4.5-trillion budget for 2021, with the aid program targeting 10,000 participants who will leave the cities and establish businesses in their home provinces.

“To promote regional socio-economic development, we infused P3.21 billion for our ‘Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa program.’ This could also help in the decongestion of Metro Manila,” Budget Assistant Secretary Rolando U. Toledo said in a briefing Thursday.

He said funding will help relocators with their moving costs and support their livelihoods.

“This is done by providing transportation, relocation assistance and transitory family support packages and livelihood settlement grants to 10,000 returning families and receiving community members,” Mr. Toledo said.

In a Viber message Thursday, he said P2.2 billion will going into the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s proposed budget.

He said P500 million was allocated to the National Housing Authority and P500 million to the Department of Agriculture.

The government rolled out the program to encourage families to move to the provinces in order to decongest Metro Manila and spur growth in the countryside.

Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua said the program’s long-term goal is to rebalance regional development, adding that the government should make sure participating regions are “interconnected so the supply, flow of goods and services, people, investments and trade would be unhampered.”

Mr. Chua said basic services such as water, sanitation, housing, education and health facilities should also be present in provinces participants are returning to.

“Those will make this program more sustainable and help in the recovery of our economy. What we know from this crisis is congestion and agglomeration are not necessarily helpful when this pandemic is expected to not resolve itself as quickly as possible,” he said.

In May, the Trade department said it will offer livelihood kits worth P5,000-15,000 for participants who want to set up businesses after leaving the capital. — Beatrice M. Laforga