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Population – a problem but also a blessing

THE Philippine population is growing by about 2 million a year and by the end of 2017, we will number 105.75 million, according to the Philippine Population Commission. The United Nations estimate as of July, 2017, is 103.83 million.

Sixty-two years ago, in 1955, the country’s population was only 22.17 million, but it was growing by 3.6 percent a year. By 1965, the population had reached 30.91 million; by 1975, 41.29 million; by 1985, 54.32 million; by 1995, 69.83 million; by 2005, 86.14 million; and by 2015, 100.69 million.

In 2012, during the Aquino administration, Congress enacted the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act (RA 10354) but such was the opposition to certain provisions on contraceptives that were deemed anti-life, that a petition questioning its constitutionality was filed with the Supreme Court. The court issued a temporary restraining order in 2015, and partly lifted it only recently. Meanwhile, President Duterte last January issued Executive Order No. 12 calling for full implementation of the law and providing funds for a modern family planning program available to the poor by 2018.

The government stresses that RA 10354 is principally a reproductive health bill, aimed at helping poor mothers get adequate health care, but some officials place greater stress on keeping the Philippine population from unduly expanding and thus affecting national economic growth. Thus, when the country crossed the 100-million line in 2015, they saw it as a cause for grave concern.

And yet, in much of the rest of the world today, the concern is quite the opposite; it’s over falling populations.

Statisticians place the population replacement rate as 2.1 births per women, but many countries have fallen well below this rate. In Europe, Germany’s rate fell to 1.47 births per woman in 2014; it rose to 1.5 in 2015, due in part to an influx of refugees from the Middle East, but it is expected to decline in the next 40 years. France had the highest birth rate in Europe in 2014 – 2.01 – compared to Europe’s average of 1.58, but suffered a significant decrease in 2016. In England and Wales, the birth rate was 1.83 in 2014, but decreased to 1.82 in 2015.

Closer to home, our neighbor to the north Taiwan had the world’s lowest fertility rate at 0.9 baby per woman in 2011 and has since offered all sorts of incentives to its young mothers. As for mainland China, it adopted a one-child policy in the 1970s but ended it in 2015 as the elderly population ballooned. Last year, births increased by 1.31 million but this is far short of China’s hopes for 3 million babies annually in the next five years.

Considering all these developments in other nations, we should welcome the report of the Philippine Population Commission that 2 million Filipinos are due to be added to the national population this year. The government’s economic development plans for the next five years of the Duterte administration should be able to provide jobs for these new additions to our population, especially in the rural areas where agriculture holds the greatest prospects for development in the country today.

Our increasing population may pose an economic problem to the government, but it is also a blessing for our country as it takes an increasingly important place in the world of nations.