Philippines population slows but still 'not sustainable'

Posted: 17 May 2006

The Philippines annual population growth slowed down to a rate of 1.95 per cent last year, prompting economic authorities to say that this puts poverty reduction goals within reach of being met.

If the growth rate stabilises at this level the Philippines would have over 94 million people by 2010, the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) reported. [Today's population is estimated to be about 89 million].

Romulo Neri, Director General of the National Economic and Development Authority, noted that the latest population growth rate was nearing the governments medium-term target of 1.94 per cent. Neri said slowing down population growth to 1.94 per cent a year was necessary to enable the Philippine economy to feed and sustain its entire population, and reach poverty reduction goals.

The government has set a target of reducing the proportion of population living below the poverty line from 45.3 per cent in 1991 to 22.7 per cent by 2015. The latest data from the NSCB showed that as of 2003, the proportion of the population living in poverty stood at 30.4 per cent.

Not sustainable

Reducing the number of people living in poverty to 22.7 per cent of the population was a commitment that the Philippines made under the Millennium Development Goals, pledging to stamp out extreme poverty by 2015.

However, Ernesto Pernia, a Professor of economics at the University of the Philippines, said a 1.95 per cent annual population growth rate was unsustainable.

He pointed out that it was higher than other developing countries in Asia. Pernia said the Philippines should be able to slow down its population growth rate to as low as 1.6 per cent, similar to that of Bangladesh, to be able to meet its poverty-reduction goals.

He described the governments effort to arrest the growing population as practically nil, and said there had not been enough programmes to promote birth control.

Catholic influence

With the Philippines dominated by Catholic voters, the government has yet to make a tough stand against population growth and has left it up to couples to choose their preferred method of family planning.

At present, contraceptives in the country are basically sourced from foreign donation, particularly from the United Nations Population Fund. Donations are expected to stop by 2008.

In a separate report from Xinhua News Agency, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo,is quoted as saying that her government would focus more on feeding the hungry rather than on programmes aimed at limiting population growth.

The President said she would rather have the current 1.95 per cent population growth rate maintained instead of spending the funds for artificial birth control methods. The government prefers to promote natural family planning methods.

The President said the funds would be better allocated to address hunger, poverty and unemployment.

However Mrs Arroya added that she was pleased that the country's population growth rate slowed to 1.95 per cent from 2.36 per cent from 1995 to 2000. It plans to improve food for school programmes, so they reach 1.3 million families rather than the 400,000 at present.

Sources: Philippine Daily Inquirer and Xinhua News Agency, both reported in Push Journal on May 11 and May 15, 2006

Related links:

World Bank ready to help slow Philippines' population

Future population shocks to hit the Philippines