Manila, June 19, 2003 (MALAYA) A couple's decision to plan the size of their family according to their capability to nurture is crucial in changing the conditions of the environment.

With the current Philippine population now reaching an estimated 82 million that increases yearly by 1.8 million, and at the rate urban centers industrialize, the rapid increase of the number of people means the need for more food, more houses and schools and better social services, the Commission on Population said in a statement.

Most Filipinos now live in surroundings that are in distress-from dying forests in the rural areas to dirty water and poisoned air in the cities-but they still turn to their environment to live. Very poor families, who make up 40 percent of the population, barely survive. Squatter settlements are increasing in urban centers.

Commission on Population Executive Director Tomas M. Osias said the situation asks Filipinos what they can do to restore what they have altered. "If people do not act, the surroundings will continue to degrade at the expense of children and future generations," he said.

The Philippines has one of the fastest growing populations in the world, so fast it outpaces development and the government's ability to provide basic services. From 1995 to 2000, the population grew at a rate of 2.36 percent, slightly higher than the growth rate of 2.32 percent during the first half of the 1990s. At this rate, the population will double in 29 years.

The pressure it exerts on the environment is evident in the continuing loss of forest cover, silting of rivers and pollution of air and freshwater bodies. Out of 384 river systems in the country, 40 have been declared biologically dead due to pollution.

A recent United Nations forum on water named Metro Cebu, with a population of close to 2 million, as one of the highly urbanized cities of the world expected to face worsened water and sanitation crises because of the increasing number of consumers.

In 2000, the UN named Metro Manila, with a population of 10.9 million, as one of 19 megacities-cities with over 10 million residents. By 2015, it will expect a population of 15 million and will be among 23 megacities in the world.

Metro Manila has far higher levels of suspended particulate matter-tiny solid particles dispensed from pesticides, asbestos and thousands of other products-in its air than New York, London or Tokyo.

With the increasing number of poor families and the expansion of urban centers, consumption will rise and there is little chance for resources to regenerate.

Osias said people who plan their families with good health, education and a bright future in mind are doing their environment a great service, because they can help moderate consumption and overexploitation.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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