Saturday, July 12, 2008
The Philippines joined other countries yesterday in marking World Population Day with new mothers packed two to a single bed, nursing their babies in government hospitals. The sight has become common in state-run hospitals particularly in Metro Manila, the country’s most populous region. A report this week blamed overcrowding for 55 infant deaths at the Ospital ng Makati in the first half of the year.
Poor health care that could lead to infant and maternal deaths as well as induced abortions are just some of the consequences of the lack of access to family planning programs. The Philippines, according to the United Nations Population Fund, is now the world’s 12th most populous nation, with 88.7 million people and an annual population growth rate of 2.04 percent. Metro Manila now has 11.553 million inhabitants, putting a heavy strain on resources and the delivery of basic services.
Official records show that four babies are born every minute in this country, with half of neonatal deaths occurring within two days of delivery. Eleven mothers die every day of pregnancy-related causes. About 1.4 million unplanned pregnancies are recorded every year, with 473,000 ending in abortions.
Population growth should pose no serious problems if economic growth can keep pace with it. This has not been the case in this country for several decades now. Last year’s 30-year-high economic growth rate is being reversed rapidly this year by the continuing surge in food and fuel prices. The country cannot provide enough food or decent jobs to its citizens, which is why nearly a tenth of the Philippine population is overseas. Agriculture officials have pointed out that national food security is unlikely within the next three years because of the continuing population boom.
In the past, women left unwanted babies at church doorsteps. Today they are sending aborted fetuses in packages to priests, or leaving fetuses in public toilets. And yet the Arroyo administration, beholden to the Catholic Church, abandoned the family planning program, refusing even to provide information that can present choices to the public about planning the size of their families and women’s reproductive rights. Bills have been filed in the 14th Congress dealing with runaway population growth. Lawmakers should exercise political will and pass those bills.