As of 2005, the Philippines is home to 85 million Filipinos. Considering the annual population growth rate of 2.3%, the country’s population might reach and even grow above 95 million in as short as 5 years (Perez 2005). After another 20 years or so, this number might even reach 150 million. If our population grow to this magnitude, would our country be able to accommodate everyone?
Even now, as we speak, not everyone lives a comfortable life. We do not have room for every one. In fact, a large portion of our population lives below the poverty line. We see many Filipinos starving and homeless. In dumpsites like Payatas, people scavenge for trash just to survive. Uneven distribution of wealth in our society accounts for this situation. Although the members of the lower class outnumber the members of both the middle and upper classes, they are the ones who get the lowest income. To make matters worse, their income is not even enough to cover the cost of daily living.
Although an increase in population means more workers, this does not guarantee economic development and prosperity for all. Taking into account the Philippines’ present condition, about 11.30% of the country’s workforce are unemployed and 16.10% of them are underemployed (Philippine Labor Force Survey 2005). Further population increase would contribute to the growth of the unemployment and underemployment rates resulting to even more people getting hungry if the economy does not grow fast enough to create jobs for the increasing number of people entering the workforce. In addition, big population increase demands more resources. More people require more mouths to feed, more houses to build, and more spaces to occupy. In short, more resources are used up in a smaller span of time. Although the resources in Philippines are abundant, they can be easily depleted if our population continues to grow at a very fast pace. High population growth rate is therefore more problematic than helpful. Population control is thus needed to avoid reaching our country’s saturation point.
Family planning points a way of solving the overpopulation problem. The question is what kind of family planning should be implemented. The Catholic Church advocates purely natural means of family planning and frowns upon the use of contraceptives. In turn, the government and the politicians are pressured to adopt the Church’s stand for fear of excommunication and reprisals during election time. Some years ago, the government tried to legislate the Population Control Bill 3773, which “restricts families to two children, introduces sex education for children, and supports the distribution of artificial contraceptives” (Vanderheyden 2005). With the Church and its millions of members opposing, this bill was instantly killed in Congress. No wonder the country has no clear and strong policy to arrest the high population growth rate.
Perhaps what is needed is an educational and awareness campaign to highlight the evils of overpopulation and stress the importance of limiting the number of children in ensuring not only the well being of the family but also that of the country’s. The government should stay neutral in this issue of family planning by observing the principle of separation of Church and State. It should, however, give access to the people of all types of family planning methods, both natural and artificial, and leave the decision to the people which type of method they want to use to limit the size of their families. If the people are given the right to choose their leaders during elections, they should likewise be given the right to choose the type of family planning method best suited to their beliefs and needs.
Now, the bigger problem is not actually the method in solving the high population growth. Our bigger problem is that we are going about our problems individually. High population growth affects everyone and so we are all responsible for solving this problem. Instead of acting individually or out of some narrow vested interests, why don’t we all work as one country to solve this problem? Let us not waste time any more. The time to act collectively is now.