An article in today’s Washington Post
explores the interconnected problems of poverty and rapid population growth in the Philippines
. Many factors contribute to the country’s high poverty rate, including corruption and traditional land ownership laws, but a birth rate that is among the highest in Asia
is also significant. Eighty percent of the Filipino population is Catholic, and both the influential Catholic Church and the current government—in power for the last five years—oppose modern family planning methods. Filipinos are permitted to buy contraception, but no national government funds may be used to purchase contraception for the millions who want it but cannot afford it.
The situation may be poised to worsen, notes the Post: “Distribution of donated contraceptives in the government’s nationwide network of clinics ends this year, as does a contraception-commodities program paid for by the U.S. Agency for International Development. For years it has supplied most of the condoms, pills and intrauterine devices used by poor Filipinos.”
Yet the story is not entirely gloomy. A recent brief by Joan Castro and Leona D’Agnes of PATH Foundation Philippines, Inc. describes IPOPCORM, a development program that has successfully delivered family planning services to impoverished Filipino communities while simultaneously promoting environmental conservation and overall human health. Based on this success, some municipal governments in IPOPCORM’s service areas have set aside money in their budgets to purchase family planning commodities directly. A major conference in 2008 (building on an earlier conference in 2006) addressed population, health, and environment connections in the Philippines; featured speakers included former Congressman Nereus Acosta and Joan Castro.