DISPATCH PROCEDURES. Community facilitators of the National Housing Authority assist the Balik Probinsya beneficiaries during the send-off procedure at multi-purpose court 2, BP2 depot, Quezon City on Wednesday (March 9, 2022). Some 31 beneficiaries returned home to Bicol on Thursday as part of the program. (PNA photos by Robert Oswald P. Alfiler)

MANILA – Some 29 beneficiaries composed of seven families and an individual on Thursday returned home to the provinces of Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur and Naga City through the government's "Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-Asa (BP2)" program.

Prior to their scheduled 9 p.m. departure, the beneficiaries went through a two-day verification and evaluation of the National Housing Authority (NHA) and Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), starting Wednesday at the BP2 Depot in Quezon City.

The dispatch proceedings include the registration, orientation, and swab testing to make sure beneficiaries are tested negative for the coronavirus disease before they are sent back to their provinces.

Under the BP2 program, informal settlers in Metro Manila who wish to return to their respective provinces will be provided transportation, cash assistance, and livelihood opportunities.

The BP2 initially facilitated the return of some 31 individuals to Albay on Tuesday.

Jonah Bonaobra, one of the beneficiaries, was grateful for the program, saying "it's a great relief for the people like them to have been given another opportunity to have a fresh start in their hometowns."

"Hindi po namin inaasahan kasi nung nag-apply kami simula pa ng pandemic. Tapos ngayon lang kami tinawagan mahigit isang taon. Hindi po namin inaasahan, kaya ngayon natawagan kami sobrang saya (We didn't expect this, we have applied for the program since pandemic. We have been contacted after a year. We didn't expect but now that we received a call from BP2, we are very happy)," Jonah said.

Carlo San Fernando, 25, is among the beneficiaries who are set to go back to Camarines Norte on Thursday night, recalled struggling to find a job in the province, when he was lured by friends to go to Metro Manila. Luckily, he became a laborer in a construction company.

Carlo thought he would have an easier life in the Metro than he had in the province.

But when the pandemic struck, Carlo's livelihood was disrupted. He then struggled financially.

When Carlo found out the government was assisting stranded people like him to return to the provinces, he said, he immediately enrolled in the program.

"Sa probinsya na lang ako magtatrabaho. Salamat sa programang ito, tinutulungan kami sa pag-uwi (I will work in the province instead. Thanks for this program, for helping us to go home)," Carlo said.

With all the hardship he experienced looking for a better income in Metro Manila, Carlo realized it is best to return to his hometown for good.

Michelle Alinsod, who is an orientation facilitator of the BP2 beneficiaries, expressed happiness being part of the government's flagship program, which offers new beginnings to people who lost their good fortune in the province after choosing to stay in Metro Manila.

"Masaya po ako kasi nakakatulong kahit papaano sa mga taong gusto nang bumalik sa kani-kanilang probinsya, kahit nag-aassist lang po. Masaya po ako sa ginagawa ko (I am happy because I can somehow help people who wish to return to their respective provinces, even if I'm just assisting. I'm happy with what I'm doing)," Michelle said, adding that she opted to fulfill her job, as herself, is also a "probinsyana" from Cebu.

Michelle said she feels a different kind of fulfilment just by assisting the BP2 beneficiaries.

President Rodrigo Duterte signed May 6 Executive Order No. 114, institutionalizing the Balik Probinsya program, which aims to address Metro Manila's congested urban areas by helping informal settlers in Metro Manila to return to their home provinces.

Through the BP2 program, qualified beneficiaries may get sustainable livelihoods while the government introduces a rationalized system of fiscal incentives for export-oriented and domestic-oriented enterprises, as well as support for micro, small and medium enterprises.

Those who wish to avail of the BP2 program may visit www.balikprobinsiya.ph or call 0919-0657896 and 0919-0692530. (PNA)