01 August 2004

The View on Family Planning

Since Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay has filed House Bill 16 this week which seeks a two-child policy that would give couples incentives if they have two children or less, there have been many discussions about its worthiness in curbing the population problem of the country.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer today editorializes that the bill is "fraught with danger" and "opens up the possibilities of institutionalizing discrimination in the name of economic progress." In this context, it highlights that it is "fear and ignorance" that make women abort their pregnancies and while we all "desire fewer babies," the editorial places a premium on the people's conscience and the value of "information on the consequences of pregnancy," "information on the true cost of child rearing," and "information on family planning, birth spacing, nutrition and health.."

While I am all for health information dissemination and for letting people use their conscience to decide what's best for them, I am also aware of the astounding Philippine population growth over the years:

1903 - 7,635,426

1941 - 17,000,000

1990 - 60,705,580

1995 - 68,616,536

2000 - 75,330,000

2004 - 84,000,000
The current annual population growth rate is 2.36 percent and this is one of the highest, if not the highest, in the Asian region (China is 0.6 percent, Indonesia is 1.46 percent, Malaysia is 2.07 percent, Japan is 0.2 percent, Taiwan and Thailand is 0.93 percent, and Singapore is 1.15 percent). Projections done indicate that if this rate grows unhampered, our population could balloon to a whopping 170,000,000 in less than 30 years from now! [Manila Times]

The drive for family planning has been with us during the last 30 years. You can click here to witness why the Population Commission (POPCOM) was formed in the first place. Heck, I even remember being the POPCOM champion for Region 4 during my high school days. We have all been told, educated, and inundated with all the information about contraception methods, pregnancy, the dangers of abortion, responsible parenthood, and proper birth spacing. But in spite of all the information disemmination, we have all been witness to a population growth that is fast approaching the 100-million mark.

So, are our people without conscience then?

Of course not. They have a conscience but a conscience that is easily swayed by cynicism. They can not be blamed. The cynicism is borne out of the callousness it has acquired through years and years of observed government corruption and inefficiency. It's a vicious cycle of finger-pointing with no one wanting to accept the blame and correct it. Meanwhile, poverty and corruption continue to kill mothers and babies, as well as spawn a rapid population growth. You might even find it amusing, though. You might wonder maybe a time will come when the number of deaths will possibly balance the number of births --- all in the name of inefficiency and cynicism.

I think that the time has come when we should make the Lagman Bill compulsory. Sure, there's the fear of us becoming like the victims of the China Population Policy, but at the rate we are going, we have to do something fast. Poverty and population are two sides of the same coin. The more mouths to feed, the worst it is for all of us. Mind you, I'm not advocating abortion here, ok? What I'm saying is the adoption of a program that will reward those who have fewer children and punish those who wantonly spawn children without thinking about their welfare and future. I want a Lagman bill that is compulsory.

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