Landgrabbing in the cities and countryside is at the core of the Duterte regime’s Balik Probinsya (Back to the Provinces) program. Rodrido Duterte and his lackey Christopher Go is peddling the program as a solution to the congestion in Metro Manila during the Covid-19 pandemic. But this program is neither new nor original.
Every government from Marcos to Benigno Aquino had its own version of the “back to the province” program. For decades, the reactionary state has been attempting to evict poor communities from Metro Manila to free up prime real estate for bourgeois compradors and their foreign counterparts.
Under Duterte’s Balik Probinsya, the poor will be given land in the provinces that is already occupied by settlers and minorities. These include the 15-hectare public land to be granted to each returning family that is to be planted with trees under the National Greening Program. The said program covers farms and ancestral lands targeted for expansion of commercial tree plantations.
Instead of Balik Probinsya, the urban poor demands the prompt construction of affordable and decent housing as a solution to congestion in Metro Manila and other city centers. It should address their clamor for jobs, wage and income increase and social services, instead of throwing them to the countryside where poverty rates are even higher and there are no jobs. To address the migration of people to the cities, the rural economy must be developed by free distribution of land and setting up agriculture-related industries in the provinces.