It was announced matter-of-factly in the Philippine media last week that, according to the Philippine Census Bureau, the population of the Philippines reached, on Sunday, July 27, one hundred million. I'm unaware of how they came about this statistic. Just last September the population amounted to ninety-eight million. Does that mean it added two million more Filipinos in just ten months? They even identified a woman (chosen entirely at random, of course) in Manila who had given birth to the child that brought this relatively small country, with a total land area,(1) spread among its 7,107 islands, smaller than the U.S. state of New Mexico, to such a significant milestone. News agencies went along with the charade, interviewing and congratulating the bewildered young woman, who was obviously overwhelmed by all the attention usually reserved for women giving birth to quadruplets or quintuplets.
The news should've come as no surprise to the Roman Catholic church, which continues to wield political power here, and which is holding fast to its prohibition of birth control, maintaining that only God decides how many children a woman gives birth to.(2) The international press, however, paid no notice of it, despite their large presence a few weeks ago when the Philippines was host country to the ASEAN summit. Foreign reporters all zeroed in on the same story: how economic growth in the Philippines is one of the highest in Asia and how President Benigno Aquino III is fulfilling his two major campaign promises of ending corruption and poverty in his country.
Not a single reporter noticed the only growth that actually mattered - the population growth, which is now increasing by 2% per year. That means that in just twenty-five years (2039), according to the current rate of growth, the country will reach one hundred and fifty million.(3) While other Asian nations, like Japan and China, are worrying about the aging of their populations because of very low birthrates, thirty-four per cent of the population of the Philippines is under the age of fifteen.
President Aquino, who delivered his annual State of the Nation Address the day after the birth, doesn't seem to understand that the key to ending poverty isn't growing the economy but liberating women from the drudgery of being little more than baby-making machines. A robust program of family planning would create choices for Filipino women - something that this former Spaniosh colony that is still afllicted with a macho culture evidently doesn't want. Filipino women would have the option of having five children instead of ten, or two children, or even none. At last, it would give them the freedom to live their own lives, considering only themselves, pursue higher education, have careers, and make their own money. In every country of the world where women have been given such options, they have invariably chosen to have fewer children. Faced with a birth rate that is approaching zero, the government of Japan has even had to resort to incentives to persuade women to have more children. Despite Feminist propaganda, however, most women in the world simply cannot "have it all" - they must choose between children and family or a life of their own.
But stemming the current explosion of the Philippine population would mean defying the Catholic church, which no politician is prepared to do here, and actually doing the hard work of administering the Reproductive Rights program that was finally passed by the Philippine Senate, after decades of delays. That would mean not only supplying free contraceptives but educating people about the enormous advantages that using them can bring. That would bring about changes that this country's ruling elite simply cannot countenance. The poor will continue to look on the number of their children as an insane indication of bounty, in a country that will not give them anything else.
(1) 300,000 square kilometers, or 115,831 square miles.
(2) Doesn't the church's policy underestimate the power of God? If only He decides when a child is conceived and a man chooses to use a condom, wouldn't He cause the condom to break?
(3) The official forecast, which looks optimistic, predicts 142 million Filipinos by the year 2045.