Manila, May 6, 2003 -- There are 1.8 million babies born in the Philippines every year, or four every minute.

As the state of the environment is one of the essentials at the beginning of life, these infants would live in a world that can hardly offer them a warm welcome because of the devastation of the surroundings.

Executive Director Tomas M. Osias of the Commission on Population said more babies will be born, but the reality of an environment in ruin must encourage Filipinos to put more attention to improve the surroundings.

"Like human life, the earth has integrity that needs to be respected," he said. "If we do our individual contributions towards managing our environment, we can stop the cycle of poverty in poor households where children start life in dreadful conditions." Osias said 40 percent of the estimated 82 million population today live below poverty line, or they live below one dollar a day. "The poorer an individual becomes, the least he or she gets a share of the limited resources, which, in turn become lesser because of the increase in the number of people who compete for their needs."

Citing studies, he said the environment has changed drastically because of the utter disregard for the consequences of having large families that are unplanned-childbearing age women give birth to four children when in reality, they want not more than three.

Osias said that with half the population aged 21 and below, the current rate of childbirth is not expected to slow down in the coming years, and the prospect of a slow economic progress and low food production, including the need for more and better social services, is expected.

"The challenge of making the quality of life more decent will remain difficult," he said. He added that the Philippines now faces a serious problem of continuing loss of forest cover, mangroves and coral reefs; silting of rivers and dams; pollution of air and freshwater bodies and the depletion of aquifers and other sources of potable water.

Almost 80 percent of tropical forests and mangroves have been cleared and forest resources have been shrinking by 119,000 hectares each year. At this rate, the remaining forests will be depleted in just 10 years. Overfishing and a rising coastal population, estimated at 40 million in the last decade, has destroyed 95 percent of coral reefs, reducing the stock of fish. Water supply and quality is a problem in highly urbanized cities because of the rapid consumption.

Osias said Filipinos will continue to overexploit what remains of their resources, making a slim chance for them to give something back to the earth.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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