February 2010

If you were buying a used car from the candidates…

If you were buying a used car from the candidates…

When John F. Kennedy ran against Richard Nixon in the US, the defining question aimed at Nixon’s character was, ‘would you buy a used car from this man?’

If you were buying a used car from the Presidentiables in our country, this is how it would be.

1) Noynoy—  It is Philippine made and the model is EDSA People Power edition. It IS iconic.  The car is 24 years old, has knocks here and there. Does not look impressive at first glance but gets better when you see the features up close. Very steady handling. Once in a while, you need people (power) to push it though. His mom and dad used to drive it. It’s colored yellow!  It is a bit battered but still good for the long haul. It has a GPS and navigation system in case you get lost. It will always point you to the Right Way. All documents are certified as real.

2) Villar— The car is an orange-colored sleek Cadillac with everything on it. It is heavily advertised in all classified ads, billboards and even TV and radio. It claims it can  traverse  ‘rivers of garbage’.  But the seller will not tell you that it is way too overpriced (almost 6 times) for what it’s worth. And the registration may be dubious according to some people who have bought other cars from him. But it has stickers to many exits on C5 that will let you pass for free. And you get free tickets to Wowowee.

3) Gibo— The green colored car was abandoned and was severely affected by the Ondoy flood. It  was also stalled , buried and recovered by backhoe beside a highway in Maguindanao. And the owner who used to drive it was an illegally licensed  woman midget who liked stepping on the gas and pushing it to strained limits. But Gibo is a good salesman and may even  dazzle you into buying it.

4) ERAP- Yes, it’s the same best seller model car that was recalled, impounded and condemned a few years back because of severe defects. But it’s suppose to be OK again now, the owner claims. It’s registration which was confiscated before was restored by the same  midget woman with the illegally obtained license who strained Gibo’s car!

5)  Gordon—The car makes an impressively loud roaring sports car sound but doesn’t go far for some reason. They say it  handles quite well on MMDA U turns.

6) Brother Eddie— It ran a race before but finished 3rd. It’s owner says it runs with hardly any gas. By the grace of God, it runs!

7) Jamby— Says it can outrun the orange Cadillac. It’s a hybrid. It’s way, way, way at the end of the car parking lot right now.

8) Nicky Perlas— Has many features that can dazzle. It’s a prototype car parked in the showroom. Not road tested. It’s practically brand new but  might never be driven, actually.

9) JC—  Hardly used and only for very short trips. Nice and clean with Shaldan air freshener. Has a Sto. Nino on dashboard, and a rosary hanging on rear view mirror. They took out the back seat so you can’t engage in hanky-panky! And for good luck, it is blessed by two Bishops!

No new taxes under Erap

No new taxes under Erap
By Iris Gonzales
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Promising not to impose new taxes if he gets elected as president again, Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino standard-bearer Joseph Estrada said his administration will negotiate with creditors to restructure the country’s debts, like what Argentina did in 2002.

In a round table with The STAR editors on Friday night, Estrada said the savings from debt restructuring would be used in infrastructure projects for food security such as farm-to-market roads and irrigation facilities.

“We can talk to our creditors like what Argentina did. If they were able to do debt restructuring, why can’t we?” Estrada said.

Estrada was referring to the move by recession-hit Argentina to finance its large foreign debt by swapping 76 percent of its defaulted bonds with discounted new ones at a longer maturity rate.

The center of Estrada’s economic agenda is food security because the country cannot compete in manufacturing, except in the canning industry.

He noted that the Philippines only assembles imported materials.

“My priority is food security and agriculture, “ Estrada said.

In line with his food security agenda, he promised to make the country self-sufficient in rice, but did not lay down specific measures to achieve that goal.

On the issue of agrarian reform, Estrada said he would push for the repeal of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law of 1988.

“Agrarian reform is a total failure in the last 20 years since it was made into law,” he said.

Estrada said there are too many factors that prevent it from succeeding, such as middlemen who prey on farmers who own the land and the regular typhoons that damage crops.

In the area of tourism, Estrada said the Philippines has many attractive tourist destinations but lack peace and order, causing tourists to prefer other countries in Southeast Asia.

“In Thailand, they attract six million tourists a year because it’s very peaceful. We can have the best platform in government and the best economics but for as long as we don’t have peace and order in our country, we’ll never move forward,” he said.

He said the problem of peace and order in the country has been the same for more than 50 years now, leading several foreign governments to issue travel advisories against the country.

“There’s bombing here, and kidnappings there,” Estrada said.

He said if there were peace and order, investments would also come in.

He said that to attract more investments, the Constitution should allow foreign ownership of land, except agricultural lands. Media liberalization should also be allowed.

To address the power supply shortage, Estrada said the government should tap geothermal energy.

Estrada, whose ouster was triggered by allegations of jueteng (illegal numbers game) pay-offs and insider trading in the stock market, said he still has no plans on how to improve the country’s corporate regulatory environment.

“I have to be honest, I haven’t studied that (improvement of corporate regulatory environment) yet,” he said.

Estrada, who runs on a pro-poor agenda, also failed to elaborate on what concrete measures he would take to make economic growth trickle down to the grassroots.

Estrada, an actor before entering politics, was the 13th president of the Philippines. He was elected in 1998 and served until his ouster in January 2001.

Estrada's health regimen: 30-minute sauna every day

Estrada’s health regimen: 30-minute sauna every day
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Former President Joseph Estrada said he doesn’t believe in botox and plastic surgery to defy aging, and does not use any skin care products on his face, “not even sunblock.”

Estrada, who took the hot seat and gamely answered questions from editors of The STAR Friday night, said his health regime is a 30-minute sauna every day, which he has been doing for the last 50 years.

“I don’t take vitamins. I just have my sauna once a day for 30 minutes. I’m doing that for more than 50 years, that is why I don’t get sick,” said Estrada, who at 72 claims he is in perfect health.

“I’m in perfect health. The result of my executive check-up at the Cardinal Santos Hospital (in San Juan City), I told my physician to open the records to the public,” he said.

Coming from a whole day of campaigning in Northern Luzon, Estrada joined editors for a late dinner that included his favorite lechon (roast pig) and chicharon (pork crackling). The company nurse then took his blood pressure, a reasonably healthy 130 over 80.

“You see, I’m pretty healthy,” he declared with delight.

Estrada had knee replacement surgery in Hong Kong four years ago due to osteoarthritis, and he now proudly boasts of being a “bionic man” because of the titanium replacements.

He admitted that he smokes one pack of cigarettes a day, and had no intention of cutting down or quitting if he becomes president again.

He also admitted that he used to drink hard liquor such as Black Label and Blue Label whiskey, but decided to give it up when he was elected vice president.

“I just drink (red) wine now,” he said, although the editorial dinner only had bottled water and iced tea.

Noynoy prefers Times St. home

Noynoy prefers Times St. home
By Delon Porcalla
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – He’d rather live in his home sweet home.

If elected president, Liberal Party standard-bearer Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III would rather stay in their family home at 25 Times Street in Quezon City than in Malacañang.

“That is one way of keeping my feet firmly on the ground. I prefer staying home at Times St. I think you know the bad vibes Malacañang has, from the time of President Marcos up to President Arroyo,” he said.

Aquino said this is the common sentiment among the Aquino siblings, who were presidential children during the regime of their mother, former president Corazon “Cory” Aquino, from 1986 to 1992.

“In fact, nobody among us siblings would want to go back there (Malacañang),” Aquino said.

The only son of the late senator and national hero Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. faces criticisms about his supposed lack of knowledge and experience in governance.

President Cory herself, who went from being a housewife to president after the 1986 people power revolution, was also criticized for lack of political experience.

But Noynoy pointed put that under his mother’s regime, the country’s gross domestic product improved significantly.

“In spite of coups, how many years was the GDP positive? This is in spite of what they say that Cory does not know anything,” he said.

“Oo nga, walang alam – walang alam magnakaw, walang alam sa pandaraya, walang alam sa pang-aapi (Yes, she doesn’t know how to steal, doesn’t know how to cheat, doesn’t know how to oppress people),” Aquino said.

Compared to his mother, he said he has more experience in politics, having served as Tarlac congressman for nine years before he was elected senator in 2007.

“Siguro naman ho, mas may experience naman tayo pagdating sa pagpatakbo ng gobyerno (I think I have more experience in governance),” he said. “I have always opted for the interest of the greater number even if it caused me harm. I have always opted to choose the path for the greater benefit of my countrymen who I swore to serve.”

Aquino is also criticized for his supposed lack of political skill and getting only a few measures passed into law.

“If I wanted to have statistics, I can have many bills filed in my name, that would be easy. But how does that help anyone in Tarlac or the country?” Aquino said.

“Hindi ako nagbubuhat ng sariling bangko at iyan siguro ang kasalanan ko sa buhay (I don’t trumpet my achievements and that perhaps is one of my mistakes). My main thrust is to make the system work. I am very conscious about making something work. Nangako ako maglilingkod. Kailangan ba purihin ako kaliwa’t kanan (I promised to serve. Do I have to be praised constantly)?” he said.

The Vote 2010: Joseph Estrada/Jose Marcelo Ejercito

The Vote 2010: Joseph Estrada/Jose Marcelo Ejercito
The Philippine Star

JOSEPH ESTRADA/JOSE MARCELO EJERCITO

Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino-United Opposition

Campaign slogan: Kung May Erap, May Ginhawa

Born April 19, 1937 in Tondo, Manila

Married to Luisa Pimentel Ejercito

Children: (with Luisa Ejercito) Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, Jude Estrada, Jacqueline Ejercito-Lopez; 3 other first-born children

Elementary: Ateneo de Manila University

High School: Ateneo de Manila University

College: Mapua Institute of Technology, mechanical engineering

Father: Engr. Emilio Ejercito

Mother: Maria Marcelo

State of health: In perfect health

Blood pressure: 130/80

Major surgeries.

None, except circumcision when I was nine and my knee replacement four years ago.

Smoking habit.

Almost one pack a day.

Plans to cut down?

I don’t bother anyone. I buy my own cigarettes.

Medication/vitamins.

No medicine, no vitamins. Sauna once a day, 15 minutes a day for the last 50 years.

Skin care.

Walang botox yan, no plastic surgery.

Ever consulted a psychiatrist?

I’m married to one.

Advisers.

Economy: Ben Diokno, Philip Medalla

Foreign affairs: Domingo Siazon, my classmate

Security: Myself, being a former mayor.

Politics and legal matters: Sen. Ernesto Maceda

Media: No permanent adviser

Health: Former health secretary Alfredo Romualdez

Campaign Budget

P 1.5 billion.

Repay campaign donors.

I accept donations without any consideration.

Role of the VP.

My VP Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay is a very good local executive. Maybe DILG.

Cabinet.

My former Cabinet is intact. No one was involved in a scam.

Relatives to serve as confidential staff.

No.

Fashion stylist/Barber.

Myself, or my wife. My old barber of 30 years died.

First lady Loi’s role.

Same as before.

Do you watch pirated DVDs?

I don’t have time.

ECONOMY/TRADE/FINANCE

Increase FDI and local investments.

Peace and order. Level the playing field. Eliminate graft and corruption.

Model for economic development.

China.

Lower power costs, improve energy security.

Continue with geothermal, look for alternative energy sources. Alternative energy policy a priority.

Infrastructure priorities and how to fund them.

Farm to market roads. Irrigation. So our food security is ensured. A hungry stomach knows no law.

New taxes? Other priority tax policies.

No. I choose debt restructuring.

Economic sectors for priority development.

Food security. Agriculture.

Free trade.

Yes, but we have to protect agriculture.

Sectors to be protected/subsidized.

Agriculture.

Sectors to be liberalized.

Media. Para magkaroon ng competition. More jobs. Pati suweldo ng reporters tataas.

Foreigners owning land.

Yes, except agricultural land.

OFW deployment.

No choice. We can’t give them jobs here. But their remittances are helping the economy.

Brain drain.

We have to ask our schools to train more people.

Benefits of growth to the grassroots.

We can’t eradicate graft and corruption but we can minimize it.

Mining and exploitation of natural resources.

Still studying. Maraming marurunong, pati pari nakikialam.

Manufacturing and exports.

Uncompetitive. We can only compete in canning of fish.

Can we be self-sufficient in rice?

Yes, by prioritizing irrigation, water impounding. I gave incentives to governors who produced more palay.

Agricultural production, agribusiness, tourism.

Did that already. On tourism, we can’t move forward without peace and security.

Agrarian reform.

A total failure. It’s global competition. Establish cooperatives, give titles to farmers.

Improve corporate regulation.

I haven’t studied that yet.

How to stop smuggling.

Easy. Impose punishment.

Support for R&D in key industries.

Yes.

Bank secrecy laws and money laundering.

Relax bank secrecy, especially for public officials.

NATIONAL SECURITY

Peace in Mindanao.

Yes to negotiation, but no to dismemberment of the republic. Won’t allow MOA-AD-type deal, it’s treason.

Policy on communist rebels.

Negotiate from a position of strength.

Fixed term for AFP chief.

Yes, to professionalize military.

Private armies and CVOs.

No, because they are inherently illegal.

Adopted member of a PMA class.

Almost.

Which one?

The most notorious – 1971.

Importance of US military aid.

Absolutely important.

Other countries we should have closer military alliance.

China, because it’s an emerging economy and has no record of invading other countries.

Corruption in the PNP/AFP?

Stiffer punishment for offenders and strict enforcement of command responsibility.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

RP’s most important ally is…

As of now, the US. In a few years, we have to enhance our relationship with China.

China – threat, challenge, friend?

Friend. China has no history of invading other countries. It’s purely for business. They are industrious people.

First foreign trip as president.

I don’t like to go on state visits. I’ll travel only for very important meetings to cut down on our expenditures.

Should RP strengthen ties with any particular region?

Middle East countries where our OFWs are concentrated.

Sabah claim.

Hopefully.

Spratlys claim.

We should pursue it in the international courts.

EDUCATION/CULTURE/ARTS

Improving education.

It’s my top priority. Among all our presidents I was the one who put the biggest per capita budget for education.

Additional years in grade school and high school.

Definitely, but government can’t afford it. There’s a growing disparity between rich and poor kids, where the rich have three years pre-school and the poor go straight to grade one.

Free universal kindergarten.

Of course.

Importance of English proficiency in national competitiveness.

We have to improve (English proficiency) like China and Singapore. That’s the advantage we have over our Asian neighbors and pretty soon we may lose that.

How to improve national competitiveness.

Funding. Schools should also be encouraged to offer non-degree courses.

Role of arts and culture.

We should not lose our identity as Filipinos.

HEALTH CARE

Priorities in improving public health care.

I will increase the budget for health care, whatever you want for enhancement/improvement for public health care will boil down to the budget.

Family planning/reproductive health.

In favor. It is very important to give women a choice of a family they can afford. I am 100 per cent against abortion.

Keeping doctors, nurses and other health professionals home.

We can’t stop them until we give them jobs here, and it boils down to peace and order. We could have the best hospitals and health professionals but if we have poor security, then nothing will happen.

Cost of medicine.

In India medicine is cheap because they are generic. Here, the pharmaceuticals lobby even to the President.

JUDICIARY

Should SC powers be limited?

Yes. The SC should not delve into business and economic issues.

Should GMA appoint the next chief justice?

No.

Independence of judiciary.

Avoid influence peddling in appointment of members of the judiciary. So nobody is beholden to anybody.

Will you invoke executive privilege, and under what circumstances?

No. The President should be made accountable for all his actions.

CORRUPTION

Transparency in government.

People in the government should be made aware of severe punishment awaiting them. No holds barred investigation whoever they may be.

How will you deal with corruption?

Certainty of punishment, full implementation of the law like in the US.

Prosecution of GMA for corruption.

People should file charges against GMA. Personally, I would not since I have forgiven those people who have wrongly accused me.

HUMAN RIGHTS

Murder of journalists and militants.

We have to investigate.

AFP/PNP respect for human rights.

During my term, may nagreklamo ba against human rights sa AFP at PNP?

Too much freedom/democracy.

We have democracy now, right? But look at where we are now….

Is the Philippine press irresponsible?

Some are.

Have you been treated fairly by the mass media?

Sometimes not, as during my impeachment trial.

Economic rights over civil liberties.

There’s no substitute for civil liberties.

ENVIRONMENT

How to deal with extreme flooding.

Continue flood control programs similar to what we did in Camanava.

Climate change.

Have a climate change commission funded by First World countries, but just continue policies we started even before climate change became fashionable issue.

Logging/agroforestry.

We have to protect our forests, be strict. Permit selective logging.

Water management.

Develop Laguna Lake because that is the biggest source of water. We have a lot of sources of water but they’re not being developed.

SPORTS

Sports development.

Of course.

Which sports.

All. They have so much politics and so much corruption in PSC.

First-ever Olympic gold under your watch? How?

We cannot promise but we will do our best.

STAND ON THE FOLLOWING:

Cha-cha.

Yes, some economic provisions need to be changed.

VFA.

It was approved during my administration.

Freedom of Information Act?

I’m all for that.

Right of reply bill.

Yes.

Divorce.

What divorce? (Laughs)

Marriage expiration?

What God has put together, let no man put asunder.

Gay rights.

Yes.

Gay marriage.

No.

Death penalty.

We have to bring back the death penalty.

Current energy crisis.

We have to consult the experts.

Issue on you having several families.

My wife does not complain, this is personal and it has nothing to do with my handling the government. It happens to young men, even to bishops. We all make mistakes.

Survey firm told to publish sponsors

Survey firm told to publish sponsors
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Former senator Francisco “Kit” Tatad yesterday urged the survey firm Pulse Asia to make public who paid for its regular surveys on candidates for the May 10 elections.

Tatad issued the call after Pulse Asia reportedly sent invitations to national candidates to avail themselves of its Ulat ng Bayan survey for the month of March.

Tatad criticized the pollster for selling its services to the highest bidder.

“Contrary to what appears to be sound ethical practice, the firm has been inviting politicians to participate in its survey at the rate of P400,000 per head and to introduce a ‘rider’ question about their candidacies at P100,000 each,” Tatad told the weekly Kapihan sa Sulo Hotel news forum.

Tatad, who is running for senator under the Grand Alliance For Democracy with former President Estrada’s Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) and United Opposition, said the names of the sponsors of the surveys were not made public by Pulse Asia and the promised rider questions were never made.

Since the questionnaire forms the soul of the survey, Tatad stressed it should be neutral.

“But the fact that paying politicians are allowed to contribute their own question is not the best way of ensuring the neutrality and objectivity of the survey and it does not prevent anyone from asking what else is being sold aside the question,” he said.

Pulse Asia president Ronnie Holmes, on the other hand, explained that there is a confidentiality clause in the contract between the firm and the sponsor of the survey.

But Holmes claimed Pulse Asia adheres to the standards of neutrality in their surveys.

Holmes also said candidates are not allowed to formulate or write the rider questions since it would violate the neutrality of the survey.

Holmes also pointed out that surveys conducted are snapshots of what could change in the next few months. – Perseus Echeminada

‘What next president must do to grow economy’

‘What next president must do to grow economy’
Philippine Daily Inquirer

LEGAZPI CITY—A well-sustained economy, poverty reduction, fiscal issues and control of corruption are the national imperative concerns that the next president should look into in order to attain higher economic growth, a presidential economic adviser said.

Albay Gov. Joey Salceda, a top economic adviser of President Macapagal-Arroyo, said the strategies would be on two fronts—a 7-8 percent sustained economic growth rate followed by the reduction of poverty incidence by 14 percent while increasing the middle class from 23 percent to 45 percent by 2016.

“Our national goal, therefore, is the creation of a dynamic middle class that would be the sole foundation of a sustainable society that must be fair to the poor and to future generations,” Salceda said.

He said that to achieve and sustain higher growth, the next administration would have to execute the following: Secure build, operate and transfer projects to pole-vault public infrastructure as the key state strategic intervention for global competitiveness; encourage domestic investments; improve capital expenditures; and create regional industrial policies.

He said the national savings rate stands at 30 percent versus an investment rate of 15 percent, which is broken down into public, 4 percent, and private, 11 percent.

Such state of massive savings surplus has been experienced for the last six consecutive years, Salceda said.

“One proof is this, of the P500 billion in annual profits of the top 1,000 corporations in 2009, P350 billion was dividends. Thus, renewed business confidence should encourage domestic private reinvestments,” he said.

Moreover, the country needs little foreign capital and what it needs are foreign enterprise-based technology, access to markets and management expertise, he said, citing business process outsourcing, tourism, logistics and agribusiness as priority investment destinations.Mar S. Arguelles, Inquirer Southern Luzon

Leave kids out of ads, bishop tells candidates

Leave kids out of ads, bishop tells candidates
By Kristine L. Alave
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA–Leave the children alone.

This was the message of a senior Catholic prelate Saturday to politicians who use children in their campaign commercials.

Capiz Archbishop Onesimo Gordoncillo said candidates for the May 10 national and presidential elections should stop using children in their ads, saying this was a form of exploitation.

“It’s like child abuse,” Gordoncillo said in an article posted on the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) website.

“I’m calling on the candidates to please stop using the children,” he said. “That is against their rights. We should respect the children. Let them grow according to human rights. They should not grow tainted by politics.”

Politicians should also stop using other marginalized sectors, like persons with disabilities and the poor, to trawl for votes.

“They should stop this kind of politics,” Gordoncillo said.

Most of the presidential candidates have ads on television, radio and print focusing on their advocacies that almost always feature children and marginalized groups.

Sis vows no ‘Kamag-anak Inc.’ in Aquino presidency

Sis vows no ‘Kamag-anak Inc.’ in Aquino presidency
By Anselmo Roque
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MUÑOZ, NUEVA ECIJA—THERE will be no “Kamag-anak Inc.” in a Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino presidency.

Pinky Aquino-Abellada, the Liberal Party presidential candidate’s sister, said Aquino’s extended family would not be allowed to meddle in the affairs of government, if he becomes president.

Abellada, who was the guest speaker at the silver anniversary celebration of the computer training center of the Central Luzon State University here, said she and her three sisters—Ballsy Aquino Cruz, Viel Aquino Dee and Kris Aquino Yap—would continue in their professions after helping their brother in the presidential campaign.

Abellada, who has an economics degree, said she and her sisters would not interfere or dictate on their bachelor brother how he should run the country.

The Aquino siblings are children of the martyred opposition leader Benigno Aquino Jr. and the late President Corazon Cojuangco Aquino.

“We had been in exactly the same situation before when our mother served as president. We never meddled,” said Abellada.

The derisive phrase “Kamag-anak Inc.” was coined by critics of former President Aquino to refer to her relatives who were accused of meddling in the affairs of government and of using their connections for their own ends during her term from 1986 to 1992.

Abellada said that while she and her siblings respected their relatives, they would not hesitate to act if they saw that something was not right.

“We will tell our brother about it. We will protect and nurture the good name that our parents left behind,” she said.

“We will not betray the love that the millions of Filipinos have shown for our father and mother,” she added.

Abellada assured her audience that her brother would not make any decisions that would destroy the trust of the Filipino people.

“Noynoy has his own mind. He will not be pressured. He treats everyone with respect so he will not be high-handed,” she said.

Abellada, who has been campaigning for her brother in the provinces, said she wanted people to know Noynoy “as a person, as a brother and as a public servant.”

Population rate not falling fast enough–Cabral

Population rate not falling fast enough–Cabral
By Jerry E. Esplanada
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA–The government’s family planning program has “not (been) as successful as we would want it to be,” Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral has acknowledged.

Cabral told the Inquirer that “even as population growth is coming down, it is not coming down at the rate necessary to improve the socioeconomic status of the country.”

In an interview last week, Cabral said: “Our goal for the population growth rate by 2010 is 1.9 percent per year. It was 2.04 percent in 2008.”

Cabral said the government needed to “bring it down much more than that, like to a level of 1.3 to 1.4 percent per annum where the population will stabilize.”

Family planning remains one of the DOH’s thrusts, Cabral said, as she stressed the need to “fulfill our commitments as embodied in the (government’s) Medium-Term Development Plan and the MDG (United Nations Millennium Development Goals).”

Informed choice

“And they’re related to the reduction of infant and maternal mortality, as well as the control of widespread chronic diseases like tuberculosis, malaria and HIV-AIDS.”

Asked about problems facing the family planning program, Cabral said, “Principally, it’s because we do not have programs that should provide our families with an informed choice and with the means to exercise their choices.”

“It’s because our focus was really just on natural family planning,” she said.

“There’s nothing wrong with natural family planning,” she added, “It has been shown to also reduce the rate of unwanted pregnancies.”

“But it’s not the best method. There are other methods even better than natural family planning,” she said, apparently referring to artificial birth control means.

“The point is a person or a family must have a choice. And the choice must be informed,” she said.

On the Catholic Church’s opposition to the Department of Health’s population control program, Cabral said, “They are very open about it.”

Willing to negotiate

But she said that the DOH was “always willing to discuss and negotiate [the program].”

In its report on the Philippines, the UN Millennium Campaign (on the MDGs) said that “while the country is progressing well in its bid to achieve most of the MDG targets, a faster pace of gains is urgently needed to reach some of the 2015 goals, especially because poverty has increased in the country.”

“The country’s high population growth rate is diluting the gains of economic growth. The larger the population a country has, the greater will be the pressure on basic social services and on natural resources,” it said.

Here, “more than one million babies are born every year. They will be needing resources in the future, such as health care, schooling, food, clothing and later on, employment. Even today, these needs are not being met.”