Unlike so many countries in the world (like say, Scotland or Cuba) the Philippines is not in danger of having to rely on immigration to prop up its demographic future. With a birth rate well in excess of 3 children per woman (down from 7.4 sixty years ago) the Philippines is still a growing population. It is in the position of being able to export workers to other countries who need the help (for example, Singapore).
However, at the moment the Philippines is debating whether its population growth is desirable or whether the Government needs to do something about it. When other countries are trying to get people to pair up and breed for the future, the Philippines President, Benigno Aquino has pushed forward a controversial health bill that subsidizes contraception. According to the Wall Street Journal:
“The reproductive health bill – which would also mandate sex education and widen family planning offerings – passed an important hurdle Monday, when lawmakers decided to end long periods of debate on the issue so that a vote can be held, most likely in the next several weeks. If the bill passes in the Philippines House, backers would also need to get support from the Philippines Senate before the law can be enforced.”
The supporters of this bill are worried that if something is not done, then the Philippines will not be able to afford required infrastructure – roads, hospitals, schools etc – and will be unable to deal with poverty. In short, the Philippines must lower its population growth to become rich. As you may imagine, in a very Catholic country like the Philippines, there are vocal opponents to the bill. For example:
“Archbishop Oscar Cruz, a veteran Catholic leader, said on the online news portal rappler.com that the bill ‘hates life, wants to do away with life’ and questioned the economic value of efforts to rein in the country’s reproductive rates.”
But perhaps the hardest-hitting opponent of the bill is the Congressman representing the district of Sarangani, boxing icon Manny Pacquiao. As the Wall Street Journal reports, Pacquiao has “hit out” against the bill and has “com[e] out swinging”:
“God said, ‘Go out and multiply.’ He did not say, just have two or three kids,” [Pacquiao] said in an interview earlier this year with the Philippines’ GMA Network…Mr. Pacquiao has continued to reference contraception as one of his key political issues, arguing that lawmakers should instead focus on laws that would alleviate poverty, rather than using government funds to subsidize birth control.”
While it is unlikely that Pacquiao’s opposition will be a knock-out blow to the bill, it does give opponents a well-known figure to rally around and will undoubtedly help their message to get out to a wider audience. The debate has been raging on and off for ten years now in the Philippines, so it fair to say: watch this space; there are a few rounds to go before the final bell.