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).”
“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.”