Children are blessings: Palace says pandemic baby boom 'not a bad news'

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 20 2020 03:22 PM | Updated as of Oct 20 2020 06:16 PM

Filipino nurse Marciana Erispe tends to a mother inside the maternity ward of the government-run Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Manila, Sept. 18, 2020. Eloisa Lopez, Reuters

MANILA - Children from unplanned pregnancies during the coronavirus pandemic are "blessings" and "not bad news," Malacañang said Tuesday, as it planned a boost for family planning methods under looser lockdowns. 

Some 2.5 million unplanned pregnancies are expected to be recorded in the country by the end of the year – a 42 per cent increase compared with last year, according to the University of the Philippine Population Institute (UPPI) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). 

"Bagama't talagang dapat iplano po ang pamilya, hindi naman bad news na marami rin tayong naging anak. Our greatest resource is still our population. We don't view the children who will be born as a problem. We view them as blessing," said Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque. 

(Although the family should be planned, it's not a bad news to have children.)

"We welcome these newborn Filipinos as blessings to the country, even if we would like to encourage people to plan their families," he told reporters. 

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Even before the pandemic, the Philippine government was already trying to temper its population numbers. At the turn of the millennium, the country had a population of 76 million, but by 2015 it had grown almost one-quarter to 100 million, representing average annual population growth of 1.6 per cent – the highest in Southeast Asia.

The landmark passage in 2012 of the Reproductive Health Law, which introduced a more comprehensive national family planning program, was aimed at slowing the birth rate. 

A year after the law was passed, the modern contraceptive prevalence rate was at 38 per cent, up from 34 per cent in 2008, and by 2017 – the last year for which statistics are available – the rate had only slightly improved to 40 per cent. 

However, the extended lockdown measures are reversing the small strides the country has made. Aside from an increase in unintended pregnancies, the UPPI and UNFPA foresee a 67 percent jump in unmet needs for family planning services, resulting in 5.2 million women being left without access to birth control by December. 

"As a matter of public policy, kailangan paigtingin natin iyong tulong natin sa mga mamamayan, lalo na iyong gustong magplano ng kanilang pamilya," said Roque. 

(We need to boost the assistance to citizens, especially those who want to plant their families.)

"Now that we are reopening the economy, and there are now only localized lockdowns, I think iyong availability ng mga kinakailangan ng mga nagplaplano ng pamilya will be there again, as they have been in the past," he said. 

(The availability of the requirements for family planning will be there again.)

- With reports from the South China Morning post