World Bank ready to help slow Philippines' population

Posted: 17 October 2005

The World Bank has announced that it is willing to support programmes that would help reduce the population growth rate of the Philippines. The move follows government reluctance to fund the purchase of contraceptives and a downturn in US funding for that purpose.

Joachim von Amsberg, the Bank's Country Director, said the 2.36 per cent annual population growth rate was "very high... It is, indeed, an obstacle and a hindrance to development."

The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) has criticised the Arroyo administration for its stance on artificial birth control, claiming there is a strong possibility that the government will miss its poverty reduction targets under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).The total fertility rate (which measures the number of children women can expect in a lifetime) stands at 3.3 - one of the highest in Asia.

The influence of the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines means that the administration is reluctant to use public funds to buy contraceptives and is actively promoting natural family planning.

The United States Agency for International Development, which had supplied 80 per cent of the contraceptives in the last 12 years, has recently started phasing out donations with the last supplies expected to last no more than three years.

The Bank has committed funding for the $38 million second women's health and safe motherhood project, which aims to give poor women access to "acceptable, high-quality and cost-effective reproductive health services and enable them to safely attain their desired spacing and number of children."

A Bank project brief noted that while contraceptive prevalence rose to 49 per cent in 2003 from 36 per cent in 1988, women, on the average, are still having one more child than intended.

Source: Business World reported in Push Journal, 14 October,2005.