By Xianne Arcangel, November 17, 2020; CNN Philippines

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 17) – The National Economic Development Authority on Tuesday suggested to defer the passage of a law that would institutionalize the “Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-asa” (BP2) program until its impact has been assessed.

NEDA director Remedios Endencia told lawmakers that BP2’s implementation would have to be evaluated in the coming months since it was only launched this year.

“Considering that it was just recently implemented, we suggested deferring enactment of the program into law until we are able to develop the program further and evaluate its initial impact,” Endencia said at the hearing of the House Defeat COVID-19 Committee’s new normal cluster.

Since there are already corporate incentives in place for businesses interested in setting up their operations outside Metro Manila, Endencia stressed that the tax perks proposed in bills institutionalizing BP2 should be “performance-based, targeted, time-bound, and transparent.”

Reacting to NEDA’s position, Antique Rep. Loren Legarda, chairperson of the committee, said she will push through with consultations on the pending bills.

“I believe in the program,” Legarda said. “I believe that we must prepare the provinces to receive families, but we must also consult agencies and see how much allocation we need to prepare communities.”

Legarda stressed that relocation in the provinces as proposed in the bills will be voluntary, but there will be provisions for economic infrastructure to be put in place so returnees can have jobs.

Based on data from the Population Commission, the top three most populated regions in the Philippines are Metro Manila, Region 3 or Central Luzon, and Region 4-A or CALABARZON.