Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Friday, August 10, 2007

Wrong solution to wrong problem


Maybe those who are still advocating population control should consider de los Reyes’ timely and valid warning. He said that: “Population control is the wrong solution to the wrong problem. The root social problem of our nation is not over-population but massive, enslaving poverty. "

Evidently, some international funding agencies continue to impose as funding requirements the adoption by our country of anti-life population control programs and policies. The alarming aspect here is that these policies are now being presented as pro-life since they allegedly promote health, eliminate violence against women and even prevent abortion and other sexually transmissible diseases. The program is now called "population management" while birth control has been more euphemistically designated as "reproductive health".

More alarming yet is that these international agencies, specifically the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) are now turning their sights at the policy makers in the grassroots level — the municipal and city councils of the local government units (LGU). They believe that these bodies are more vulnerable and easily swayed to adopt their population policies. And with many LGUs eventually adopting their own population control programs, they are convinced that the passage of several pending House Bills (Nos. 1808 and 3422 in 2004 and 261 and 3773 in 2005) that they are pushing but have so far encountered rough sailing in the Lower House committees would be facilitated.

Significantly, the first known LGU to adopt these population control policies is Olongapo City. The City indeed seems to be a logical choice for this pilot project. Its high population growth rate is obviously tied up to its past reputation and history as the site of a former naval base and the favorite "R and R" destination of visiting or stationed members of the US and other foreign armed forces. Under these circumstances, it is quite easy to persuade the city council to adopt a population control program. Thus was born the Olongapo City Reproductive Health Code (the Code).

But in its passage, a lone voice reverberated loud enough to register his opposition to the Code. Even if he was overpowered by sheer force of numbers, his arguments were so forceful that they jarred the conscience of his colleagues and rattled them to the point of ganging up on him and initiating his recall as duly elected councilor of Olongapo City. He is John Carlos G. de los Reyes, a young professional who was elected in the last elections under the Kapatiran Party.

At first glance, this Code looks so laudable and beneficial to Olongapo and its residents especially the women, as it will supposedly promote their health and prevent sexually related diseases. But de los Reyes clearly expressed his apprehension to his colleagues by citing certain policy statements on which the ordinance finds its mandate. And this is embodied in its whereas clause declaring that "there is a need to curb the population growth rate for better population management" and that "unmet family planning needs due to shortage of supplies may contribute to the looming surge in the City’s population in the near future".

De los Reyes then exposed the flaws of the ordinance centering on the inexistence of the problem it is trying to solve; equating this inexistent problem as the cause of the other problem of poverty; and the adverse consequences of the proposed solutions.

Maybe those who are still advocating population control should consider de los Reyes’ timely and valid warning. He said that: "Population control is the wrong solution to the wrong problem. The root social problem of our nation is not over-population but massive, enslaving poverty. Philippine poverty cannot be the result of a growing population, but rather the outcome of corruption in both government and business sectors. Both government and business conspire to put half of the national wealth and income in the hands of less than 1% of the population. We are poor not because we are many, but because only a few wittingly or unwittingly deprive our kababayans of opportunities to prosper….Contrary to what many say, our country is not overpopulated. Rather, the national problem has always been the concentration of wealth and opportunity in major urban centers, such as Manila, Baguio, Angeles, Davao, Cebu,…Olongapo? This condition gives rise to congestion, lack of resources and crime.

Our country has already reached the point of "demographic transition" when the rate of growth reverses to a gradual decline. Furthermore, a definitive study of the Population Council in New York as early as 1982 concludes that the greatest factor influencing fertility decline is not a government-managed population control program. Between 35% and 45% of fertility decline is attributable to modernization, or the attainment of higher levels of human welfare and quality of life. Approximately 25 to 35% of fertility decline is induced by the simple factor of delaying the age at marriage, and 15 to 25% by the simple recourse of breast-feeding. None of these factors intrude into the health of people or violate the sacredness of life. Only between 2% and 5% of fertility decline is attributable to "managed population control."

Then, backed up by statistics, he pointed out that the population control policy embodied in the ordinance is totally unnecessary because: "The Philippines’ annual population growth rate is not, as many claim, 2.36% but between 1.61% (United Nations, 2003) and 1.99% (Philippine National Statistics Office, 2004). The total fertility rate, or the average number of children per woman of reproductive age in her lifetime, is not 3.22; within 10 years, this rate will, on its own momentum, decrease to 2.15 (United Nations Population Division, March 12, 2005). By then, the Philippine population will begin to decline in absolute numbers, as fewer births replace the number of deaths annually."

Finally, de los Reyes brought out the adverse consequences of the reproductive health code. He said that: "population control bills, by their advocacy of "reproductive health" and "reproductive rights" will slowly render the Philippines captive to an official language and ethic that accept abortion as a legitimate human right just like in the United States and Europe and probably in almost all countries in the world. This language and ethic were made official in the United Nations through the 1994 World Population Conference in Cairo against which Jaime Cardinal Sin, led over 2 million Catholics and Muslims in an historical protest rally on August 14, 1994.

Besides its flaw of not significantly contributing to the alleviation of poverty, artificial birth control is highly expensive: their financial costs are recurrent and expanding due to complications; their chemical side effects, such as physical illness and emotional depression are injurious to the health of women; and their moral consequences are damaging — particularly the sexual promiscuity bred by what their advocates falsely call "safe sex"….

The significant failure rates of abortifacients also induce their users to ultimately resort to what we all agree to be an abomination — abortion. Please note that all countries that legislated the use of abortifacients eventually legalized abortion".

True to the pro-life platform of his Ang Kapatiran Party, de los Reyes courageously acts as its lone torch bearer in that part of our country still enmeshed in the polluted world of politics. He may be a solitary figure but his light shines brightly enough to keep the hopes in the hearts of Filipinos still burning. May his tribe increase.

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