The country’s population is galloping closer to the 100-million mark, with the number expected to hit 97.6 million this year at the average annual growth rate of 2.04 percent, according to the Commission on Population. The Aquino administration should take note of those figures even as it busies itself this year with its anti-corruption campaign, efforts to deal with natural disasters, and creation of more livelihood opportunities through local activities and foreign investment.
The best economic performance of the previous administration, under former economics professor Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, was hardly felt at the grassroots, as even her economic managers later admitted. The economic growth was not enough to meet the demands of the booming population. In her final months in power, Arroyo, who put the national family planning program on ice for nine years, no longer stood in the way when her health secretary revived the program.
President Aquino, a principal proponent of the Reproductive Health bill when he was a lawmaker, should be consistent in his stand and give priority to pushing for congressional approval of the measure this year. Women with education and financial means do not need the RH bill, but millions of poor women do. While senators dither over the measure, the President can urge his political supporters in local governments to promote their own reproductive health programs.
The Philippines has committed to achieve the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals. Goal No. 5 of the eight MDGs is improving maternal health, of which one of the two objectives is universal access to reproductive health by 2015. That’s one year after the Philippine population is expected to hit 101.2 million, at the current average of 1.7 million births every year, according to Popcom.
You can’t dump every unwanted baby in the trash bin of an airplane lavatory, at a church doorstep, or the gates of Sen. Tito Sotto and every male chauvinist determined to suppress women’s right to reproductive health. If the Aquino administration truly wants to make a dent against poverty, it must give priority to the reproductive health program