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The coronavirus pandemic is giving Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte a reason to reduce overcrowding in Manila, which in recent decades has swelled into one of the most heavily populated areas on Earth.

Duterte is offering cash and goods to induce city-dwellers to move out of the greater capital region in an ambitious program called “Back to the Province,” one of the most aggressive attempts in decades to lure Filipinos to the countryside. With the pandemic exposing how swift population growth and urban migration have overstretched Manila’s transport, utility and health services, the government is now attempting to alter long-entrenched patterns of labor mobility.

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