MANILA, Philippines - A hundred million.
The population of the Philippines is expected to reach that number this year, putting a strain on the country’s resources, the Commission on Population (PopCom) said.
“Definitely in the third or fourth quarter of this year, we will be more than 100 million,” PopCom executive director Juan Antonio Perez III told The STAR yesterday.
In 2013, the National Statistical Coordination Board estimated the country’s population to be around 97.35 million.
Perez noted that to support the rising population, more investments in social services such as health and education, and infrastructure would be required.
Health Undersecretary Janet Garin, for her part, said the ballooning population should be matched by economic growth.
Otherwise, she claimed, all the economic reforms that the government has been undertaking could be jeopardized.
“The government will always be there to provide social services but it’s not unlimited. There is a limit to our funding,” she said in a telephone interview.
Garin has underscored the need for the Supreme Court to decide now on the Reproductive Health (RH) Law because it will fortify existing programs of the Department of Health.
“If you look at the situation, the desire to plan the family is there but the question is that the affordability is not there. This is where the law comes in, to make sure poverty will not get into generational (traits), that you won’t pass it on to the next generations,” she maintained.
Perez added that since the country’s population growth rate is now around two percent, “we have to maintain a gross domestic product of more than four percent to keep pace with employment.”
“But we have to maintain that for five years, not just one year, to get there, to get the benefits,” she said.
He said to get the “benefits of demographic dividends,” the current total fertility rate (TFR) or the “replacement rate” of 3.1 must be improved to 2.1. TFR pertains to the number of children per woman.
“Of course what we want to do is not really population growth rate reduction. It’s not that. We want to get a replacement rate of 2.1,” the official claimed.
But Perez said that it would take five to 10 years to bring the TFR down to 2.1
And to minimize the impact of the huge population, there is also a need to improve the contraceptive rate that is now pegged at 49 percent.
“We have to reach a contraceptive rate of around 65 to 70 percent. Now it’s 49 percent so that means in five to 10 years we have to get there and keep it up for five years,” he added.
The official agreed that the RH Law could also help the country cope with the rising population.
“The RH Law – this is my own opinion – talks about additional resources for the program and the local government units (LGUs) are getting on board in terms of policy,” he claimed.
With the law, LGUs will be mandated to provide funds for reproductive health programs, including the purchase of contraceptives. The measure, however, has not been implemented due to a restraining order issued by the Supreme Court.
Perez said that the health resources of most LGUs are still pegged at 1992 levels, or when health services were devolved from the DOH to the local levels.
“There are already existing mandates like the PopCom and DOH for a population program. What the RH Law will do is strengthen the policy level and the LGU level and increase resources,” he added.