"Other countries do not have to deal with religious leaders like we do."
The population growth of the Philippines over the past decades has been one of the most phenomenal among the nations. From 18-million people at the outbreak of World War II, our country has about 108-million people as of 2015. We cannot seem to put a brake on the increase of our population at the rate it is growing. Indeed, one of the striking aspects of Filipino life that attracts our foreign visitors are the very large number of children in our streets.
To put this in a better context, Japan, at the start of the Second World War, had about 71.4-million people. Today, Japan has a population of 127.7 million, and is one of a number of countries with a declining population. In a span of about 80 years, Japan’s population grew by 56.3-million people. In our case, even if we started from a lower base, our population grew by a whooping 84 million people—and we are still growing.
Another country is Italy, where the seat of Roman Catholicism is located. It has now about 60.36-million people from about 44.4-million people at the outbreak of World War 2. It is also one of the countries whose population has not grown very much and is in fact on the decline. There are now some towns in Italy where people are offered money just for them to move or transfer their residence to these localities. To think that there are churches in almost every street in that country albeit many are not in use anymore. Since the Vatican is in Italy, one would think that the Roman Catholic leadership there with so many cardinals and all would continuously issue condemnation on the government with regard to population policies like the way our Filipino Catholic leaders are doing in this country. But this is not the case as evidenced by the absence of any major conflict between the Church and the Italian government that we read in the papers over population policies.
Republic Act 10354, otherwise known as the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law passed in 2012, cannot seem to gain any significant traction due to the opposition of our Roman Catholic leadership. It is sad that what is happening in this country is that those who cannot afford to raise many children are the ones having many children; couples who can raise more children are having less. The effect of this, according to one study concluded many years ago, is that the general IQ of our children will continue to decline instead of increase. In other words, it is affecting the quality of life of succeeding generations if our government is unable to craft a better policy to arrest the decline. This is probably the reason why the quality of our students and the results of our assessment test participation is also low.
One of the intentions of RA 10354 is to be able to educate couples about responsible parenting. It is not about having as many children as one would want but having the number that the couple can raise decently. Unfortunately, one cannot even have a proper and civil debate with our church leaders on this issue. To them, the issue is closed and that is that.
The result is that it ensures that the country’s population will continue to grow at a much faster rate than that of our neighbors. One reason that our neighbors are now living better than us Filipinos is solely based on the ability of the leaders of our neighbors to somehow implement a population policy effectively. To put it bluntly, they did not have to contend with religious leaders like we do in this country.
A few days ago, the Population Commission reported a decline in our population growth over the last five years from 2015. From 1.73 percent growth, it is now 1.52 percent. Furthermore, it was computed that the 2019 to 2020 increase was even lower at 1.38 percent which would seem to point to a possible lower growth rate from 2020 to 2025. Still, at our present population of 108 million as of 2015, we are fast approaching 120-million people, the number that a study concluded to be the maximum number that can properly be sustained and supported by our country’s environment.
Beyond that, environmental degradation will become a very serious problem given that the country is one of the most vulnerable to global warming and climate change. Too many people will make it difficult to sustain a decent quality of life. Demographers believe that our population will plateau at 150 million before beginning to decline. It is estimated that this will be attained toward the middle of the century. This enormous number of people living in a country with limited space cannot help but put a tremendous strain on the environment and will certainly be a challenge to succeeding governments on how to deal with our ever growing population. Already we are beginning to see our people trying at all costs to leave the country to work in foreign lands because of what they perceive as lack of opportunities here in their own country. Some people are talking about the sweet spot in our population because we have a basically young population who are productive, as opposed to a rapidly aging population like Japan or Germany. But this can be a double-edge sword. This is why a well-balanced population policy ensuring the right number of population increase at the same time attaining a better quality of life remains a big challenge.