'Balik Probinsya' participants to receive livelihood assistance, vouchers — NHA

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 20) — The government will be providing assistance to Filipinos returning to the provinces through the "Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pagasa" program, the National Housing Authority said on Wednesday.

"We earmarked ₱35,000 [transportation allowance] for anybody who would return back to their province," said NHA General Manager Marcelino Escalada Jr. on CNN Philippines' Newsroom Ngayon. "Second is meron tayong (we have) ₱60,000 na transitional allowance which is both food and non-food items upon their return to the province. And the third is the ₱15,000 livelihood allowance."

These items will be disbursed according to the budget, he explained. Escalada cited as an example the first batch of 112 participants returning to Leyte, wherein the estimated ₱1,700 spent per passenger shall be directly paid out to the roll-on/roll-off (RORO) and bus service providers for their trips instead.

Leyte is among the provinces participating in the program's pilot run, which include Camarines Sur, Zamboanga del Norte, Bukidnon, Lanao del Norte, Pangasinan, Quirino and Marinduque.

Another instance he cited was providing participants a fraction of the ₱60,000 allowance to purchase food while in transit. The rest of the amount will be released to them gradually through vouchers once they are already in the provinces, according to Escalada.

"What we are trying to prevent right now is the provision of cash of [at] all times. But this will be in the form of livelihood — hindi sila magugutom, yung kababayan natin, (our countrymen will not starve) if they so decide to return back to the province," he said.

Escalada added this is to prevent the usage of funds for purposes other than what's intended in the program.

The benefits to be provided to participants shall also be based on the type of livelihood they plan to pursue during their stay in the province, the official added. This is among the questions in the questionnaire for the program's applicants.

"This is not something na one size fits all intervention, but ano yung kailangang specific ng isang tao (what a person specifically needs) when he goes to the province already," Escalada said.

Meanwhile, for participants who have no housing in the province, he said the NHA, Pag-IBIG, Social Housing Finance Corporation and National Home Mortgage Finance Corporation shall come up with an affordable housing program for them.

Escalada said in just a matter of 7 days, around 28,000 have already enrolled to the program.