Reverse migration
OFF TANGENT - Aven Piramide (The Freeman) - August 23, 2020 - 12:00am

When a door closes, another opens. This is just as simplistic as I can go in rephrasing an optimist perception. Indeed, it’s human experience that a door of opportunity always lurks behind a numbing impact of misfortune.

This COVID-19 pandemic is a crisis of unprecedented magnitude that has already claimed the lives of three quarters of a million and brought to its proverbial knees the economies of many nations. Here, its impact, especially on those in the lower levels of our working class, is so life-changing that deaths even appear less tragic than survival. There is no tint of discrimination to say that infections are exponentially high in depressed areas compared to gated communities. It’s a cold fact. More than that, we just have also to admit that informal settlers, less financially capable of paying for health protocols, are migrants from neighboring provinces. They have been lured to our city in search of a better life.

COVID-19 now intervenes. The large companies, where most of these residents of depressed locations work, are, to say the least, downsizing and the smaller firms where they work are closing shop. There are just no jobs available and these people have lost their meager means of livelihood. News footage showing hundreds of families in Metro Manila trying to go back to their provinces to escape hunger and famine are graphic representations of what’s happening in the National Capital Region. Their economic doors in the cities surrounding Manila are shut. With investments drying up, the job market is well-nigh zero. In the minds of displaced workers, there must be some windows of opportunities in their home provinces.

Cebu City can and must seize this chance. Reverse migration is the key. Decongesting the city will be the first observable fact. For this purpose, the city has to create a commission to help these thousands of families return to their home provinces. It can start with those who already want to go home. For the program to succeed, the commission can then proceed from identifying these individuals to making arrangements with the counterpart local government units where these people came from on the kind of support needed to start them up. It’s important that these reverse migrants be provided with the necessary implements with which to rebuild their lives. They will not just have to be uprooted from the city and thrown to their birthplaces for not only it is inhuman, it surely will not work.

I like to believe that, as an example, the originally agriculture families among them have their abandoned lands to toil. They should be provided with the kind of assistance for them to survive from the first day they soil their hands to the time they can harvest their produce. The same formula should be applied to all non-agriculture based others even if the support materiel should understandably be different. In all of these efforts though, the city has to bite an inevitable harsh financial bullet. It will be a huge allocation but the big budget will be a sum wisely spent.

If this reverse migration is pursued with dedication, we can eventually say that while COVID-19 closes a door of growth for many families in our city, it likewise opens for them a new door of more reliable living.

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