, JANUARY 1, 2008  (STAR) By Sheila Crisostomo - The country’s population is expected to balloon to more than 90 million this year, according to the Commission on Population (PopCom).

PopCom executive director Tomas Osias said the figure would have been bigger were it not for the migration trend in the past decade.

“On population, what we have is the estimate of the National Statistical Coordination Board which says (there will be) 90.1 million Filipinos by 2008,” Osias told The STAR.

“The good news though is that although in absolute numbers our population is increasing, in terms of population growth rate (PGR) it has declined to 1.94 percent,” Osias said.

He said the projection would be validated in February with the release of the results of the census conducted by the National Statistics Office in 2007.

A PGR of 1.94 percent is equivalent to some 1.7 million babies born every year. In 2007, the population was pegged at 88.7 million.

Osias explained that had the PGR of 2.36 percent in 1995 continued until now, the number of Filipinos would have doubled in 29 years. The population then was 76 million.

“But with 1.94, our population will double in 35 years. So we have six years of birthing space to accelerate economic growth. I would like to stress that these figures are only estimates,” he added.

From 2.36 in 1995, PGR went down to 2.05 in 2001 and to 1.94 in 2005.

Officials attributed the development to the steady rise in the number of Filipino women leaving the country.

“It has been observed that more (Filipino) women are migrating abroad to work mostly as nurses. It results in a managed fertility. They plan their pregnancy because once they get pregnant, their overseas jobs will be affected,” Osias said.

In terms of total fertility rate (TFR), the ideal is 2.1 percent but the country’s TFR is 3.2 to 3.4. This means that ideally, each Filipino woman must give birth to two children. In reality, each Filipino woman has at least three pregnancies.

The Philippines used to be on equal footing with Thailand in social, demographical and economic status in the 1960s to 1970s. The two countries’ PGR was at three percent.

Thailand became more aggressive in its population management programs with its promotion of contraceptives. Opposition from the influential Roman Catholic Church has held back the Philippines’ effort to control its population. In 2000, Thailand’s PGR decreased to 1.05 percent.

But Osias said he is hopeful that the Philippines will achieve the ideal TFR, especially with President Arroyo’s active promotion of family planning, responsible parenting and breastfeeding, among others. The lactation that goes with breastfeeding delays pregnancies.

He, however, underscored the need for local government units to intensify their family planning programs in the wake of the decision of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to start pulling out its contraceptive donations.

“It’s up to them what type of programs they want to implement. They know what is appropriate for their constituents,” Osias said.

USAID announced in 1998 that it was gradually reducing its contraceptive donations to the Philippines after 30 years of supplying the country with some P300-million worth of contraceptives annually.

In 2006, USAID made its last donation of pills and injectibles. This year, the agency will send the last batch of intra-uterine devices.

The Department of Health (DOH) earlier launched the Contraceptive Self-Reliance program to help LGUs prepare for the pullout.

Under the program, USAID assistance goes only to poor LGUs while rich LGUs finance their own family planning projects and don’t rely anymore on the USAID donation.

The DOH also provides technical training to LGUs to help them formulate sound family planning programs.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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