Catholic Church opposes family planning in the Philippines

Posted: 25 March 2003

Widespread resistance to contraception in the Philippines has resulted in one of the highest fertility rates in the world outside of Africa, with Filipino women having an average of 3.4 births, the New York Times reports.

The country's population in the past 50 years has doubled to 80 million and could double again in less time. The population explosion has caused economic difficulties for the country; 40 per cent of its population now lives on less than $1 a day, and jobs, food and farmland are scarce.

"The reality is that we cannot educate, provide health services and feed 130 million Filipinos by 2025," Sen. Rodolfo Biazon said. While the population is growing at 2.36 per cent each year, food production is growing by only 1.9 per cent. In addition to economic difficulties, experts warn that the low use of contraception could cause an HIV/AIDS explosion. While the country currently has an extremely low number of HIV/AIDS cases - 1,810 cases according to government figures and 9,400 cases according to United Nations figures - the lack of condom use could cause an increase in HIV prevalence.

Some experts say that the main cause of the population growth is the Philippine government's failure to educate the public, promote family planning and provide low-cost contraceptives.

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo last week spoke of her support for the rhythm method of contraception, which critics say is unreliable and difficult to follow. The Roman Catholic church has said that it will campaign against any politicians who support family planning. Retailers, such as 7-11, have been intimidated by the church and have stopped selling condoms, according to the Times. As a result, while half of the country's population is of child-bearing age, only half of these people use any form of family planning and only one-third use modern contraceptives, according to several studies.

Source: (Mydans, New York Times, March 21, 2003).