Is the problem population?

No, people interpreting the data are!

By Frank A Hilario

The Roman Catholic Church and the Filipino people, the size of the moral imperative and the size of the population. The critics of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and of the Catholic Church are one in saying that the Church’s adamant stand against family planning along with GMA’s fearful concurrence is what is causing the population explosion and, ergo, the current rice crisis. Logical but wrong. I'm sorry to say that this time, excellence is in the data, not in the people interpreting the data.

If the population is the problem, then why couldn’t we export rice and still have enough to feed the population when it was only 68.6 M in 1995 when Fidel ‘Eddie’ V Ramos was our President? He was and is Protestant and he was a good President. Why couldn’t we export rice when we Filipinos numbered only 76.5 M in 2000 when Joseph ‘Erap’ Estrada was President? He had as an adviser a former Chancellor of the University of the Philippines Los Baños, Raul P De Guzman. UP Los Baños was and still is the premier agricultural university in the country. And now that GMA is President, and she is Catholic, we blame GMA for the rice crisis, for having to import rice at heavy cost? Since time immemorial, we have always been importing rice. Since time immemorial, the ‘market forces’ have always acted in their own behalf. So why not now?

This month, to blame rice supply insufficiency on the size of the population is to deny the news in the papers, including those from the most combative of them all, the one most newspaper readers believe in, the Philippine Daily Inquirer; it is to misread the numbers, including mis-interpreting the population data. The population growth rate in the Philippines from 2000 to 2007 was 2.04%, the lowest since the 1960s, according to the National Statistics Office (NSO); and if that’s not enough, the rate is going down, not up. In statistical terms, the rate of increase is decreasing. The NSO expects it to decline further to 1.9% by 2010. All data reported by ANN, author not named, April 17, inquirer.net: I believe the Inquirer – don’t you?

In fact, the CIA reports for 2007 a significantly much lower population growth rate for the Philippines, 1.80 (ANN, 2007, photius.com). So, shouldn’t we credit, instead, GMA for the lower birth rates in her term? Do not the figures show that there is no need for any additional population program, for the Roman Catholic Church to rethink her stand on this issue?

Despite the NSO data, former Health Secretary Alberto Romualdez nonetheless believes that the population ‘would continue to expand rapidly unless the government stood up to the Catholic Church and implemented a vigorous family planning program’ (‘Gov’t fear of Church cause of baby boom,’ TJ Burgonio, April 20, inquirer.net). That tells me Romualdez's belief is that the NSO data is not worth the Inquirer paper it is reported on. Shame on the NSO, or shame on the Inquirer? This is a free country, and you are free to swing your belief short of my nose.

Well, if you ask me, last year the census taker did not include the population of our household because I told her to come back and she didn’t. Count 14 for the Hilarios in this household. Even so, give or take 14 heads, I believe the NSO census data. I also believe the CIA data. Romualdez has his reasons not believing the NSO statistics; I don’t have any. I have a significant contribution to the population; perhaps he doesn’t, so he cannot appreciate the figures? Go figure!

I enjoy reading legends and myths; they inspire the writer in me. But I don’t like the population myth being told and retold; it doesn’t inspire me. A writer needs to be inspired, not despaired. I have been inspired to write an essay earlier this month about the subject, ‘My Population Explosion. Vasectomy! Ligation! Condom!’ frankahilario.blogspot.com. Go read or think some more!

Think. Some Filipinos have already done that. Coming up, my report on the drylands of the Philippines and the concerted efforts of scientists to make the desert bloom, to borrow a phrase. Sometimes, to be inspired, you have to believe in the wisdom of others, if only in metaphorical terms. Didn't Jesus, the greatest teacher of them all, teach in metaphors? You call them parables.

David Ben Gurion (1886-1973) said:

This life as a simple citizen and laborer has its benefits not only for the person himself but perhaps also for his country. After all, there is room for only one Prime Minister, but for those who make the desert bloom there is room for hundreds, thousands and even millions (bartleby.com).

Of course, there is always room for naysayers. If there isn't, they always make room for themselves anyway.

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