GOVERNOR Arthur Defensor Jr. said iloilo Province should develop the fundamentals of its economy in preparation for the “Balik Probinsya” program of the government.
Defensor said the province should ensure better job opportunities to entice Ilonggos to return home.
“We can be more effective in that kind of program if we develop our fundamentals so that you create opportunities, meaning jobs,” he said.
This can be done by boosting the province’s economic drivers to attract investment. First is improving its connectivity for the establishment of industrial zones.
"We already have identified municipalities but we have to adjust. These special economic zones have to adjust to the location of the port. Because that would mean an added logistical requirement," he said.
At present, Iloilo Province has a pending project with the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) in developing the Dumangas Port as an international container port. There was also a pending project to expand the Iloilo International Airport in Cabatuan.
The ongoing construction of the Jalaur River Multipurpose Project Phase II (JRMP II) in Calinog town is seen to boost the province’s agriculture sector.
JRMP II is the biggest dam outside of Luzon. It can provide an additional 33,000 hectares of irrigated land.
“If we are finished with that, we will expand our agriculture. Because that is our base. From agriculture, we would like to be an agri-industrial country where we will process our agricultural products. We should create a value chain where at the end of it there are jobs. That is how we intend to create opportunities for Ilonggos who want to go home,” he said.
Balik Probinsya is geared toward boosting countryside development by encouraging people, especially the informal settlers to return to their home provinces.
Defensor backed the program as it will not only decongest Metro Manila but it will also distribute wealth in the country.
“That is good because if you want to distribute opportunities in the country, you have to create growth centers outside of Metro Manila,” he said.
“Because if you have a program like that, the focus of the economy will shift from Metro Manila to other potential growth areas like the Province of Iloilo,” he added.
Defensor added that the program also complements his “social justice agenda” for Iloilo Province.
“When I assumed office, we want to administer social justice. And you can do that if you distribute resources and opportunities here in the province. We want that kind of direction,” he said. (PR)