The internal migration of rural-dwelling Filipinos to urban areas is not a recent phenomenon. Often, we hear stories about Filipinos moving to the city for various reasons—primarily to find opportunities that are harder to come by in the provinces. As more rural dwellers leave their homes, congestion in cities becomes a prevalent problem along with issues in population control, housing, social welfare, and mobility.
Time and time again, the public and private sectors sought to solve this issue by zeroing in on the development of rural areas. Essentially, the goal is to help the provinces keep up with the city centers in which economic progress has long been concentrated. Decentralizing this progress will help Filipinos take advantage of the opportunities in their hometowns, dispelling the need to pursue a better life in the city. That said, here are some suggestions on rural development that should be worth discussing in the public and private spheres.
Improve Transportation Channels
Access to serviceable roads is an essential factor in improving an area’s socioeconomic potential. Rough or unpaved roads impede residents’ access to their homes as well as commercial hubs, hospitals, schools, and other vital facilities. Moreover, roads that are in poor condition prolong travel time and heighten the risks of road accidents.
Additionally, rural road networks play a big role in the transport of goods and services. For example, farmers need adequate farm-to-market roads to smoothen the flow of their products and support their income. It would be ideal to expand the development of roads as well as transportation hubs like terminals, ports, and airports to revitalize trade, transport, and tourism activities in remote regions.
Boost Digital Infrastructure Efforts
In the information age, access to the information highway is of paramount importance to every Filipino. With this, the public and private sectors can collaboratively develop digital infrastructure to improve the penetration of telecommunications and internet services in far-flung regions.
Currently, efforts are being made to address connectivity issues in unserved and underserved areas. Some of the digital infrastructure Philippines-based government and private entities have already worked on include telecom towers and small cell sites designed to improve mobile and internet coverage in the provinces. Such efforts are vital in information and communications technology (ICT) initiatives ranging from 5G deployment to emergency response services.
Support Electrification and Access to Clean Water
Aside from digital infrastructure, power and water infrastructure are essential to building well-developed and sustainable communities. Rural electrification, for instance, is a key factor in boosting the socioeconomic growth of marginalized communities and individuals, including farmers and fisherfolk in un-electrified villages and barangays. In addition, the establishment of next-generation power plants can encourage the use of renewable energy to provide a steady supply of electricity.
Apart from power access, it’s also important to focus on providing clean water and sanitation facilities. Filipinos of all backgrounds deserve access to affordable and safe water for drinking and hygiene. Additionally, there should be efforts to reduce water pollution, especially in ecosystems such as rivers, forests, mountains, and aquifers.
Building water treatment facilities can help boost the capacity of localities to supply clean water and improve the management of water resources. Moreover, the establishment of facilities for wastewater treatment can improve sanitation management in remote settlements.
Empower Local Industries
The Philippines, despite being an agricultural country, centers a lot of its industrialization efforts on urban centers. To keep the provinces up to speed, it would be a good idea to increase support for small-scale industries and local enterprises. Such support may cover local agrifishery enterprises that will greatly benefit from new equipment, facilities, technologies, and farming techniques. In addition, boosting research and development (R&D) initiatives can encourage innovation in the agrifisheries field, supporting greater economic growth as well as food security.
For entrepreneurs and business owners in rural regions, heightened support for their enterprises would also help them compete with their urban counterparts. The availability of affordable credit and loan services, livelihood seeding support, and other forms of assistance to micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) can significantly drive regional development. For one, initiatives like tech accelerators and startup assistance programs can encourage Filipinos to start their own businesses instead of flocking to city-based offices.
Promote Access to Healthcare Services
Insufficient access to health services is one of the most pervasive problems that remote communities face. As we have learned with the COVID-19 pandemic, diseases can become a national emergency. Proper access to healthcare and information plays a vital role in battling deadly diseases and stabilizing socioeconomic progress.
Aside from more well-equipped healthcare facilities, rural communities can benefit from medical outreach services, wider health coverage, vaccination programs, and various health education initiatives. These initiatives may include efforts to educate marginalized communities on disease prevention habits as well as reproductive health.
Encourage Better Education and Employment Prospects
Students and workers make up a large portion of interregional migrants to urban areas. To address this, one can look toward improving rural regions’ education and employment landscape. For instance, launching efforts to upgrade schools with new amenities, technology, and supplies such as textbooks can help improve the state of education in these remote communities. It would also be beneficial for rural dwellers to access academic scholarships, teacher training programs, and a broader range of educational opportunities such as technical-vocational initiatives to help them develop industry-relevant skills.
On that note, access to decent employment prospects is a key economic driver for rural areas. One could consider efforts to spur job creation such as launching job fairs and developing industrial estates where Filipinos can grow their careers with local and multinational firms.
Addressing Urban-Rural Disparities
The Philippines continues to face gaps in progress between urban and rural development. Addressing these disparities is a long-term effort, one that entails increased public-private collaboration. But even though the road to eliminating inequity and inequality seems long, we can still dream of the day that we finally see this vision of all-encompassing progress soon.