• The Financial District


An obscure ASEAN-wide publication has carried an interesting formula to battle the COVID-19 pandemic—depopulate urban centers by bundling off the teeming, impoverished millions back to the boondocks.

In an opinion piece dated May 17, 2020 but carried in the May 27, 2020 edition of the ASEAN Post, “Battling the Pandemic with Relocation Strategy,” author Anna Rosario Malindog-Uy, described as a Professor of Political Science and International Relations who had worked with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and is the President of Techperformance Corp., a call center in the Philippines.

Uy claimed that the Balik Probinsya (Back to the Province) program is a “key strategy” in battling the COVID-19 pandemic since it would depopulate the National Capital Region (NCR) or Metro Manila and rid its 636 sq. km. of much of the 11 million harried, impoverished residents. There is even no firm scientific showing that COVID-19 tends to proliferate in poor communities in NCR and this program is but an afterthought in the alphabet soup of programs that has not reduced pandemic cases and did not achieve mass testing, serious tracking and treatment of those infected with the coronavirus.   

She looks at the problem as one of uprooting residents from their communities and shipping them to the provinces despite the fact that all resettlement programs of the Duterte administration have bombed, with previous programs in Montalban, Rizal and in Carmona, Cavite and in San Jose del Monte becoming disasters, with residents finding no jobs in relocation sites, forcing them to return to Metro Manila where their marginal cost of labor is higher. It should be no consolation to Uy that Manila’s Tondo was a bustling, overpopulated community even before the republic was born, and that Chinatown was peopled by traders and workers living in hovels during the Spanish colonial period. Depopulation did not lead to reducing the  country’s death toll during the Spanish flu pandemic, when 90,000 Filipinos died. Neither will Duterte’s much-ballyhooed Balik Probinsya do the trick. #COVID19PH