By Sheila Crisostomo
Saturday, July 12, 2008
Former President Fidel Ramos hit President Arroyo anew yesterday for her “flip-flopping” population policy which, he claimed, reflects the “gross inefficiency of the weak Philippine state.”
In a speech delivered during the World Population Day 2008 Forum, Ramos said there have been local and international studies that confirmed “the enduring link between family size and poverty” but the Arroyo administration has still been cold on promoting a balanced family planning program.
“In our country, the most intense phase of this research was done during the 1960s and 1980s. A common conclusion was that rapid population growth was more likely to hinder than to foster economic development,” he said.
When Ramos was still president, the Department of Health actively promoted both the artificial and natural methods of birth control.
Under the present leadership, the National Government hardly promotes contraceptives.
Mrs. Arroyo instead leaves it up to the local government units (LGUs) to buy their own supplies of artificial methods of birth control.
But the National Government promotes the four “scientific” natural methods – lactational amenorrhea method, standard days method, sympto-thermal method, basal body temperature and cervical mucus methods like billing ovulation, Mercedes Wilson and two-day method.
Traditional methods like withdrawal and calendar are not being promoted because they have been proven ineffective.
“But not all LGUs could afford to finance their contraceptive self-reliance programs. Accordingly, civil society advocates and supportive lawmakers have had to lobby to increase the DOH’s 2007 budget by P150 million specifically for family planning,” Ramos claimed.
The budget was released only after five months or last February.
Ramos charged that Mrs. Arroyo’s “flip-flopping” family planning policy seemed to be caused by her “unwarranted subservience” to the Catholic Church that is strongly opposed to contraceptives.
“Are we not a nation of diverse faiths and beliefs? Any Philippine president must represent the interest and welfare of Filipinos – regardless of what religion he or she may profess. The President must be the leader of all the people – and not just of the majority,” he added.
Ramos has underscored the need for the National Government to revise its family planning program as the country’s population now stands at 88.6 million. By 2050, the number of Filipinos has been projected to reach 177 million.
He said the Philippines’ growth rate is among the highest in the world, translating to three babies being born every minute.
“PGMA’s ambiguousness has hurt the cause of proper family planning in this country. Since she has a doctorate in economics, we can assume she knows the political economy of contraception, both natural and artificial,” Ramos said.
Commission on Population executive director Tomas Osias said that population management could be an important strategy to minimize the impacts of the economic crisis facing the country.
“What is important is for those who are promoting the different methods to also state what are the advantages and disadvantages so that couples can make an informed choice, an informed decision. Right now the government is giving emphasis on scientific natural family planning methods,” he said.
According to Dr. William Padolina, deputy director general of the International Rice Research Institute, for an additional one million mouths to feed, the country’s production of milled rice must increase by 134,000 metric tons every year.
With the present population of 88.5 million, the total demand per year is 11.8 million metric tons of rice.