Bagong Simula sa Bayan ni Juan

Breaking News

For other news and information, scroll the links found on the sidebar. Links to other relevant sites and media blogs are located on the lower right portion. - RAFS76

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Crossposting: Mainstream Media vs the Blogosphere

Hey guys, here's an interesting piece re: the mainstream media and their take on the rising popularity of the "blogosphere" - an alternative media in the world wide web, realized through the use of the internet.

Hmnnn... it bears stressing though that some media practitioners resort to blogging when some of their articles don't get published by their media outfits or simply to elaborate further on a certain issue they covered ...

Hence, there should be no conflict. What is important and necessary is to keep an open and critical mind in taking all the information that you get... in whatever medium they reached you - print, TV, radio or through the internet via web blogs. In fact, almost all print media establishes presence in the world wide web. Through their websites, one can read the papers' daily content, if not more, with all the breaking news there is. Undeniably, tapping the powers of the "internet", the information highway so-to-speak, allows us to give out data and information as easily and rapidly as to get them.

SO take all the info. there is and then decide which truly makes sense... ...

Blogs to read

By John Nery
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:56:00 04/29/2008


In last week's episode of Che-Che Lazaro's TV program "Media in Focus," the second panel of guests (PR practitioner Richard Burgos, Melinda Quintos de Jesus of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, and me as a journalist-blogger) discussed the role of online media in the wake of Cebu City's Black Suede scandal. The discussion ranged widely, from the loss of traditional media's gate-keeping function to the make-or-break importance of trust or credibility.

I got the impression, especially after the show, that some of my colleagues in the so-called mainstream media find the so-called blogosphere a threatening thicket, a tangled web best avoided. To be sure, most of the millions of blogs accessible online make sense only to their authors and friends. (I do not know this for a fact, but take it as a reasonable assumption.) But it's the same way with the cable multi-verse: Not every channel is National Geographic.

It would be foolish to deny one's self the online equivalent of 500 channels, when some of the most exciting writing can be found on them.

Ethan Zuckerman, for example, is a man of many parts. Tech entrepreneur, Global Voices founder, African development advocate (his blog at is called My Heart's in Accra—that is, Ghana), Zuckerman is also possibly the best documentarist on the Web. He takes the most detailed notes at some of the most exclusive or forward-thinking conferences, allowing his readers a rich if vicarious experience.

His latest post, as I write this, is entitled "Homophily, serendipity, xenophilia." If you've ever been struck by the like-attracts-like nature of many group discussions, which results in the marginalization of dissenting opinion, you may like this attempt to "flesh out" three very useful concepts.

To Filipino readers of a certain age, James Fallows needs very little introduction; he authored that Atlantic Monthly piece in 1987 that gave us—speaking of useful concepts—a tool to beat ourselves with. (I am referring, of course, to "A Damaged Culture.")

He still writes for the Atlantic Monthly, but now lives in Beijing, as part of a long-term experiment to document China's incredible transition. His posts (at allow us to sort through the flood of information that is now available about China, through a top journalist's makeshift filter of equal parts sympathy and skepticism. But Fallows, who used to write speeches for Jimmy Carter, keeps his hand in US politics. His latest post, "Most important item in Sunday's NYT," discusses politicians' frustration with the conduct of campaign coverage.

There are many more writers worth following on the Web (I subscribe to 68 RSS feeds; Chinese bridge-blogger Isaac Mao told me he subscribes to over 700). In the Philippines, colleague Manolo Quezon's blog ( is the indispensable political website. Some of the best writing is found in the blogs of two theater critics, the Philippine Daily Inquirer's own Gibbs Cadiz and The Philippine Star’s Exie Abola. And novelist Butch Dalisay posts pictures as well-tempered as his prose.

Verily, a virtual embarrassment of riches.

A long-overdue wake-up call

Kris-Crossing Mindanao
A long-overdue wake-up call

By Noralyn Mustafa
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:22:00 04/28/2008

MANILA, Philippines - The province of Sulu, according to the Poverty Map 2007 prepared by the Peace and Equity Foundation (PEF), is one of the three poorest provinces—Number 2 on the list—of the country. The others are Northern Samar and Masbate.

Ranked according to the PEF Development Index based on government poverty indicators, these three provinces show the “most pronounced conditions of poverty among all the provinces in the country,” the study says.

In fourth and sixth places are the provinces of Basilan and Tawi-Tawi, which means that three out of the six provinces comprising the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao are in the country’s poorhouse.

It will also be noted that all are island provinces, separated from mainland Mindanao where the three other ARMM provinces (and the seat of government) are located, by the land mass of the Zamboanga Peninsula.

Most significantly, these three provinces are host to the Abu Sayyaf kidnap-for-ransom and terrorist group and their ideological twin, the Jemaah Islamiya, who come and go through this so-called “backdoor” with the nonchalance of tourists with fake passports.

And of course, these three are also the provinces where the usual “hotspots” in almost every election are located, although the mainland province of Maguindanao is Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s favorite place for electoral miracles.

Yet these are some of the most richly endowed islands in the entire country, in terms of fertile lands, marine resources, inland water sources and a congenial climate almost free from extreme weather disturbances.

Most of these provinces have an incredible resource of hardworking, creative and intelligent people willing to make the needed sacrifices to attain better lives, whose ultimate status symbol is a child with a college degree.

But this is not the place and the time to call in the Greek chorus to sing the lament of centuries.

In the urgency of the global food crisis and a fraudulent government exploiting the life-and-death realities of hunger and poverty to the fullest to divert attention from its multi-billion-peso scams and scandals and its criminal bartering of our sovereignty for 30 million pieces of silver, there is no time for tears and gnashing of teeth.

As things stand now, there are no lines yet forming here for NFA rice, but given the Arroyo administration’s ruthless propensity for sneaking from behind and exploding a bomb in our faces, perfectly timed for whatever it wants to cover up, we can never tell.

As far as I know I have not yet in my lifetime witnessed in any of these three provinces the kind of starvation I have seen in other places in the country I have visited. Even the poorest of the poor here do manage to have something to eat.

But these island provinces need a food crisis like a hole in the head.

It is to the interest of the entire country to look deeply into the PEF report and for both the national and local governments and all stakeholders to use its data in formulating a truly comprehensive program of action, free from the time restrictions of elective terms and political tenures.

It should be a program that will not depend on government dole-outs and the seasonal manna from political patronage nor—not in the long term anyway—on foreign funding agencies, however well-meaning.

Because the tragic and best-kept secret of these three provinces is that not only can they survive the present crisis, they can be self-sufficient on their own, by simply exploiting their own human and natural resources with a modicum of vision and a well thought-out plan that needs only committed leadership to translate to reality.

The PEF report is correct in concluding that the sorry state of these three provinces is a direct consequence of peace and order conditions. No plan, however brilliantly conceived, can even take off unless this festering decades-old problem is first diminished.

And this primordial objective is the one that should test the political will of both the national and local government officials and the resolve of law enforcement agencies who should be jolted from the lethargy of being the praetorian guards of Ms. Arroyo and her family commanded by a general who would assure us that “we can defend the Spratlys, but the question is can we win?”

With such a question posed by an Armed Forces chief marching to a war that so far exists only in the mind of Ms. Arroyo’s justice secretary, what can we hope for in the clear and present war against the Abu Sayyaf and other lawless armed groups that are the cause of our miseries?

Which is why the recent revival of the issue of Charter change towards federalism is hope on the horizon, especially at this time when Ms. Arroyo and her hated administration are on the way out—they really have to go—with no reason on earth for them to be lamented.

But while we still have to suffer their life-threatening presence, Ms. Arroyo should be well-advised to stop aping the fatal formula of the world’s most hated demagogues: “keep them hungry, keep them ignorant, keep them terrified.”

Even her scene-stealing of Erap’s gift-giving sorties to “masa” communities with her thoroughly pretentious placements of cheap rice outlets for “the poorest of the poor” (and military and police commissaries) can get to her head. We know what happened to Marie Antoinette.

And in the meantime, while the Senate is working out the details of the envisioned change of the Constitution, she must let go and keep her hands off the forthcoming ARMM elections.

It won’t be worth it, believe me.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

More articles on the rice crisis and the growing population

Population growing faster than rice?

Hern P. Zenarosa
Manila Bulletin Online

The chronic social and economic problems that besiege the country today are being dramatized daily by the long lines of poor people trying to buy a few kilos of government rice for their families.

And they are those with few pesos for the day’s staple food.

Now, government planners point to the population growth as the culprit: They say the population is growing faster than the palay in the vanishing rice fields.

And they are made worse by the financial burdens of raising unwanted children.

The fact is that the risks to unwanted children of the poor range from threats to personal safety to long-term poverty, low educational achievements, and life-long economic dysfunction.

It’s official: First results of the census of the country’s population conducted by the National Statistics Office placed the Philippine population at 88.5 million as of August 1, 2007, up from 86.6 million the year before.

This population growth rate went down from 2.36 percent to 2.04 percent but the government failed to meet its target of reducing the growth rate to 1.95 percent. The Philippines has the second fastest growing population in Asia.

Analysts explained the slowing population growth rate as a reflection of a growing economy: When economies grow, the demographics change. Others credit the Filipino workers diaspora overseas where families are broken up, as another factor in the slowdown.

No one said that the slowdown was because of the government’s family planning program because there is virtually none, except for the natural family planning program being promoted by the Health Department.

Now, while the population is growing, the production of the country’s staple is going down or not catching up with population growth.

In fact, there are frantic efforts to import rice from abroad, especially Thailand and Vietnam.

The Philippines is the world’s biggest importer of rice, says the Laguna-based International Rice Research Institute.

According to the National Food Authority it plans to import 2.2 million tons of rice this year, its biggest importation in a decade. But there are problems ahead: Less than twothirds of the country’s offer to import rice have been met by responses from exporters – and at a much higher price.

Some members of President Gloria Arroyo’s Cabinet have called for a more comprehensive family planning program that includes all artificial methods of child spacing such as pills, IUDs, condoms, vasectomy, and ligation in addition to natural family planning, minus abortion.

Leading the appeal is Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap, backed by NEDA Director General Augusto Santos and Social Welfare Secretary Esperanza Cabral.

Malacañang, however, has announced that it will stick to its support of natural family planning which is the only method backed by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.

It seems that between political and social unrest due to the rice crisis and the anger of the Catholic Church, Malacañang has decided to stick it out with the Church as an ally.

In the meantime, there is an ongoing rice buying tension among the provinces. Bohol Gov. Eric Aumentado has prohibited Bohol rice traders from selling Bohol-grown rice to neighboring provinces. Likewise, a similar ban by Sorsogon Governor Sally Lee has angered Albay Governor Joey Salceda whose province is experiencing rice shortages. Salceda is insisting free market for the staple food.

The only rice-rich province that is exporting rice to nearby provinces is Aurora under Governor Bellaflor Angara-Castillo. She is the sister of Senator Edgardo J. Angara, chairman of the Senate agriculture committee, who is openly critical of the International Monetary Fund for downgrading Filipino farmers’ capacity to help solve the rice shortage.

Gov. Castillo is a reproductive health champion and has a modern family planning program in place in her province. This may be one reason her province can be generous with its rice surplus and not hoard it for the future needs of her constituents.

What happens now to the R2 billion allocated for reproductive health services under the General Appropriation Act of 2008? It is possible that it will be used by some provinces but it will be an uneven, sometimes wasteful affair, given the different experiences and expertise on modern family planning available at the local government level.

Surely, there is nothing compared to a highly visible national family planning program led by Malacañang, but the days of a successful program headed by then Health Secretary Juan Flavier under the Fidel Ramos administration will have to wait for the new President elected in 2010. (


Philippine Daily Inquirer
April 19, 2008/ Marlon Ramos

A GROUP OF REPRODUCTIVE health advocates yesterday urged the government to immediately implement a stringent and long-term population program to minimize the adverse effects of the looming food crisis.

The Forum for Family Planning and Development Inc. (FFPDI) also called on the Roman Catholic clergy to rethink their opposition to artificial birth control methods.

According to the group, the expanding population will only undermine the efforts of the Arroyo administration to bring about economic development, especially in the countryside.

Population and food production are two intertwined factors. You cannot ignore the other and hope to solve the countrys woes, said Benjamin de Leon, FFPDI president.

By 2050, the Philippines would already be the 10th most populous country in the world based on the projection of the Population Reference Bureau (PRB), the group said.

2.1 percent growth

At the current 2.1 percent annual growth rate, the group said the population would have grown to at least 69 percent more from the current 80 million at the time.

Millions of Filipinos suffer from poverty due to large and unplanned families. Unless we give priority to the problem of ballooning population, every effort to counter poverty would be pointless, De Leon said.

He added, Unless the government implements a serious population program and the Church abandons its strong opposition to family planning, rice and food crises will continue to plague the country as demand for food increases.

De Leon said statistics from the Department of Agriculture showed that the national daily consumption of rice was currently at 33,000 metric tons, about 4,000 metric tons more than the countrys rice consumption a few years ago.

In only a year, he said, the countrys per capita consumption of rice rose from 103.16 kilos in 2007 to 134 kilos this year.

He said the data indicated that 21 percent of children under 5 years old would be underweight in the next few years.

Shrinking land

De Leon said that as the population increased, land devoted for food production decreased as arable and agricultural lands gave way to industrial, residential and commercial use.

He said the problem of diminishing agricultural land was further worsened by the rising demand in biofuels.

The PRB data likewise projected that by 2050, the country will have only 28 percent natural habitat, or land that has not been converted to human use, he warned.

By that time, he said, at least 296 Filipinos will have to share with each other every square kilometer of land in the country.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Sayings ....

My day started out really great, but this article by Conrado de Quiros made my day even better. Read on...

Theres The Rub

By Conrado de Quiros
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:17:00 04/22/2008

The way they're going, I wouldn't be surprised if more Filipinos turned Buddhist or Islamic or downright atheist. The Catholic Church is giving them every reason to. Except for luminous exceptions like Pope John Paul II and, nearer home, Archbishop Angel Lagdameo and the Association of Major Religious Superiors, the Catholic Church seems determined to preach only the new theology that God wants to reward the wicked and punish the good.

The Church's latest disincentive to faith is the letter of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for the Laity to Couples for Christ seeking to "correct" what is wrong with it. What's wrong with it presumably is that it is devoting its energies to Gawad Kalinga (GK), Tony Meloto's brainchild. Still more specifically, what's wrong with it is that GK is overemphasizing social work and accepting donations from pharmaceutical companies manufacturing contraceptives.

I know Meloto, we were both scholars at the Ateneo de Manila University and worked as porters at night to pay for our room and board at the dorm. I'm convinced that if the ranks of Catholics in this country have not gotten paper-thin, it's because of people like him. He is living proof that God works in mysterious ways and prefers his tribe rather than those who claim to be "close kami ni God" [“God and I are close”] who are Vatican's lieutenants and many of this country's bishops, to convey his truth to the world. I haven't met a more resolutely Christian person. Hell, I haven't met a more resolutely sincere person.

What on earth, or heaven, is wrong with accepting donations from companies that produce contraceptives? I leave the question of abortion to the usual suspects, but contraceptives? It's not as if they are weapons of mass destruction or toxic elements that cause cancer, like cigarettes. Condoms merely prevent human substance from exploding in the wrong places. Bombs induce inhuman substance to explode in the very wrong places, like public markets and hospitals. Particularly these days when the specter of famine sweeps not just across a few lands but across the world, courtesy of a runaway population outstripping food production, you've got to wonder if the Rock, which was what Christ called the Church, hasn't become a pebble.

Why shouldn't Meloto accept money from those companies to feed and house the poor? Tony himself cries out eloquently, and not without a trace of sarcasm: "Should all Catholics who work with pharmaceuticals resign? Why is it OK for many Catholic organizations to receive money from them and not OK for GK to care for the poor...? If loving this country, serving the children, is anti-life, then I need to be enlightened again as a Catholic because I only desire to be faithful."

What I myself find galling is that the Vatican should worry about GK accepting money from companies that manufacture contraceptives and be smug about its clergy in the form of the Filipino bishops accepting money from a patently poisonous source. That poisonous source, or cholera-producing well, being Malacañang and its milking cows, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. and the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office. The latter two directly engage in gambling, an activity that, completely unlike safe sex, has been known to spread disease, if of the mind. Meloto merely accepts money from pharmaceuticals that promote contraception, the bishops accept money from someone who promotes the abortion of democracy. Meloto merely accepts money from pharmaceuticals to do nothing more than feed and house the poor. The bishops accept money from a hypocritical to do everything in their power to keep her in power just so they could fatten and gladden themselves.

But the more mind-boggling thing is the charge that GK is overemphasizing social work. You would laugh, except that it hurts. Again Meloto cries out: "My pain as Catholic and as Filipino is seeing our people suffer from poverty and our country labeled as corrupt. We have not done enough for our poor countrymen. Poverty in the only Catholic country in Asia is a failure in discipleship and Christian stewardship. My dream is for the world to see that it is possible for a Catholic country to rise from poverty because we practice what we preach." That makes him more Christian than Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales. Hell, that makes him more Christian than the Pope.

How in God's name is it possible for anyone to do too much social work in this country? That is like accusing a doctor of prescribing too much medicine to someone fighting for his life. At the very least that a lay organization like Couples should somehow betray the Christian spirit by moving heaven and earth to feed the hungry and house the homeless is batty. What, they get to be more Christian by spending their time attending Mass and avoiding de-coupling while living sad, sad lives?

At the very most, that even a religious organization itself, which the clergy represents, should somehow betray its Christian teachings by plucking the hungry from the claws of hunger and the homeless from the lash of wind and rain is battier. Didn't Christ say what you do for the least of your brethren you do for him? Didn't Christ say not everyone who says, "Lord! Lord!" will enter the kingdom of God? And didn't Christ spend his time on the road with fishers and a well-known prostitute rather than in the temple with the Pharisees who were better-known prostitutes? I do not claim to know the ways of heaven, but when St. Peter goes out one day to meet Meloto who has praised his God silently by doing the most for the least of his brethren, and the bishops who have praised their God loudly by refusing to condemn the most corrupt of their "sisthren," I have a good idea whom he will send upstairs and downstairs.

Christ did say one other thing. It wasn't that the sick shall inherit the earth, it was that the meek would.

Back to Basics

Back to Basics

In family planning, natural is not a program; it means following the natural course of things; natural creates a population explosion and makes paupers of large families.”

by Ducky Paredes

Our current problems – a population of almost 90 million, a population growth rate of 2.04%, unemployment, high oil prices, the rice crisis and others that may seem too trivial to mention compared to those already cited – stem from the fact that no one has confronted our problems with a view of finding a permanent solution to them.

Instead, what we have done was to patch things up, rather than finding a permanent solution. What this country has done is the equivalent of putting a band-aid on a cancer sore with the idea of covering up the ugliness but without curing the cause.

For instance, hasn’t it been clear for some years now that we were not producing enough rice for our rapidly increasing population? So, why has nothing been done about these. Which – the population or the rice? Both!

Why didn’t we seek ways of increasing rice production – either by putting new lands to rice production or cresting higher-yielding varieties or by better framing methods?

Probably because there was money to be made in rice importation? If you could earn even just a peso for every million tons imported, you would have six million pesos today just from the present administration’s importations. Imagine if you earned a hundred pesos per million tons!

Did the thinkers actually believe that the world would just continue selling us rice forever? Why didn’t anyone see that eventually the finite resources that the world has applied to rice production would eventually be used up and that the demand would eventually be more than the supply? Thus, even ten years ago, the people who look at rice on a daily basis should have see this coming.

Yet, our main concern for the moment seems to be more on trying to mitigate the immediate problems of allocating cheap rice to the right persons – those who really need the cheaper rice. Isn’t the more proper response be that of working towards getting as close as possible to self-sufficiency in rice?

Yet, instead, we are talking about extending the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) even as that CARP is certainly one of the reasons why our rice production has fallen so severely. Land that was taken from large landowners who used to produce rice and given to several poor landowners cannot possibly produce rice at the rates that the moneyed landowners were producing. The simple truth is that one needs funds to plant, fertilize, apply pesticide, harvest and mill rice. Without funds, it is impossible to run a rice farm properly.

Our almost 90 million population with a growth rate of 2.04% annually ought to also be addressed. The government touts its natural family planning program. In family planning, natural is not a program; it means following the natural course of things; natural creates a population explosion and makes paupers of large families.

Why is the government doing it this way? Because what is important to those who govern is not that of controlling the population. Rather, what they want to control are the Catholic Bishops. This is why the government rejects any artificial population control methods and go only for the “natural.”

A government that will not address its high population growth is bound to see its population increase beyond its limits to serve their needs or even to govern properly. Clearly, there is a link between the size of the population and the number of poor persons and families and the number of unemployed and even the poverty level of most of its people.

Yet, this government is in denial over that.

The present Philippine economy cannot provide jobs for all who want to work. This is a critical failing. Yet, what have we done? We urge our people to work abroad and send back their earnings. Obviously, this is not a solution. What we need to do is expand our economy so that there will be jobs for all those who want work. Sending them abroad just as importing what we eat are not solutions to what this country needs.

We ought to get back to basics in our economic planning. The band-aid no longer covers what we tried to cover up. It is time to face up to our real problems and get back to basics, chief among which is that of finding solutions – permanent ones, not the band-aids that we have been applying to our problems.

From the Washington Post:BIRTHRATES help keep Filipinos in POVERTY

Here's a comprehensive report/article published in the Washington Post re: poverty (with the rice crisis and all that ...) and it's direct relation with population management and access to RH care and services in the country.

Read on and join our advocacy...

Birthrates Help Keep Filipinos in Poverty
Contraceptives, Rejected by Government, Are Unaffordable for Many in Majority-Catholic Nation

Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, April 21, 2008; Page A10

Maria Susana Espinoza of Manila did not know how birth control worked until after her fourth child was born. Soaring rice prices have focused attention on population growth. (Blaine Harden - The Washington Post)

MANILA -- Maria Susana Espinoza wanted only two children. But it was not until after the birth of her fourth child in six years that she learned any details about birth control.

"I knew it existed, but I didn't know how it works," said Espinoza, who lives with her husband and children in a squatter's hut in a vast, stinking garbage dump by Manila Bay.

She and her family belong to the fastest-growing segment of the Philippine population: very poor people with large families. There are many reasons why this country is poor, including feudal patterns of land ownership and corrupt government. But there is a compelling link between family size and poverty. It increases in lock step with the number of children, as nutrition, health, education and job prospects all decline, government statistics and many studies show.

Birth and poverty rates here are among the highest in Asia. And the Philippines, where four out of five of the country's 91 million people are Roman Catholic, also stands out in Asia for its government's rejection of modern contraception as part of family planning.

Acceding to Catholic doctrine, the government for the past five years has supported only what it calls "natural" family planning. No national government funds can be used to buy contraceptives for the poor, although anyone who can afford them is permitted to buy them. Local governments can also buy and distribute contraceptives, but many lack the money.

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.

"Family planning helps reduce poverty," President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said in a 2003 speech that detailed her approach to birth control. But she said then and has since insisted that the government would support only family planning methods acceptable to the Catholic Church.

Women not wanting to get pregnant, Arroyo advised, should buy a thermometer and recording charts and abstain from sex when they are outside the "infertile phases of the monthly cycle."

Arroyo, 61 and a grandmother with three grown children, said in 2003 that when she was a young mother, she took birth control pills. She said that she later confessed to a priest.

Opposition From the Catholic Church

At the Manila garbage dump, Espinoza said she has been lucky.

A nongovernmental organization with health workers who regularly visit the dump told her that an intrauterine device could prevent her from having another baby. She plans to visit a clinic this month to get an IUD.

The organization that is helping Espinoza agreed to introduce this reporter to her on condition that it not be named. The group's health workers said they fear retaliation and harassment from officials in the national and city government, as well as from the Catholic Church.

In 2005, Catholic bishops in the southern Philippines announced that they would refuse Communion to government health workers who distributed birth control devices.

In the past two weeks, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines declined repeated requests for comment on its family planning policies. The church leadership made its last major statement on birth control last fall.

"Chemical agents and mechanical gadgets that make up the cluttered display of contraceptive methods of birth control have caused serious damage in family relationships, disrupting the unity and openness that build family life by the effects that accompany the contraceptive culture which include extramarital relationships, adolescent pregnancies, and even the hideous murderous act of abortion," said Archbishop Paciano Aniceto, chairman of a bishops' commission on family life.

Aggressive Family Planning in Thailand

In recent weeks, public alarm in the Philippines over the soaring price of rice has focused attention on the fast-growing population and its dependence on rice imports.

Despite steadily increasing rice harvests, farmers here have been unable to keep pace with domestic demand. Economists here have calculated, though, that the Philippines would not need imported rice if it had managed to control population growth -- like its neighbor Thailand.

In 1970, the population of each country was about 36 million people and growing at about 3 percent a year. But with an aggressive family planning program that provides the poor with free contraceptives, Thailand has since reduced its population growth rate to 0.9 percent. In the Philippines, the rate has declined sluggishly to about 2.1 percent.

There are now about 26 million more people in the Philippines than in Thailand.

"It's a no-brainer," said Ernesto M. Pernia, professor of economics at the University of the Philippines.

The Philippines now produces 16 million metric tons of rice a year -- and needs to import 2 million tons more to meet local demand.

"If the Philippines had pursued what Thailand has done, the Philippines would be only consuming 13 metric tons of rice per annum," Pernia said. "We could be a net exporter of 3 million metric tons."

Besides increased food security, the Philippines could have lifted 3.6 million more people out of poverty if it had followed Thailand's population growth trajectory, according to Pernia's analysis.

"Even when there is widespread corruption, insurgent violence and other powerful reasons for poverty, the evidence from across Asia is that good population policy by itself contributes to significant poverty reduction," he said.

Strong Public Support for Contraception

There appears to be widespread public support in the Philippines for modern contraceptives.

Public opinion surveys in recent years have consistently found that about 90 percent of respondents supported government funding of contraceptives for people who cannot afford them.

Surveys by the government also show that poor families have significantly more unwanted pregnancies than richer families -- and much more difficulty finding affordable contraceptives.

The problems the poor face in finding contraception products will increase sharply this year as the Philippine government and USAID end the distribution of donated contraceptives, according to Suneeta Mukherjee, country representative for the U.N. Population Fund. "The poor cannot afford to go somewhere and buy contraceptives," she said. "Many cannot even afford the transportation. By the time they go, they are already pregnant."

The government's plan for "contraceptive self-reliance" anticipates that market forces will make condoms and other products available in shops or that they will be given to the poor by local governments.

But Mukherjee predicted that these new sources will not keep up with demand. "Access to contraceptives will be restricted for most of those who cannot pay and for many who might be willing to pay," she wrote in a February report.

A reduction in the use of contraception -- which is now about 33 percent among women of childbearing age -- will lead to an increase in abortions, Mukherjee predicts.

Abortion is illegal here, but a 2006 study found that there were about 473,000 a year, which accounts for about a third of women with unwanted pregnancies. The study also found that 80 percent of abortions had complications requiring medical treatment.

As for the efficacy of "natural" methods to control population growth, Mukherjee said "it does not work."

At the U.S. Embassy in Manila, an official confirmed that USAID would soon end all donations of contraceptives, after having phased out the program over several years.

But this does not mean less U.S. money for family planning. The official said that USAID has increased its budget, from about $12 million to about $15 million a year, to provide technical assistance to 700 local governments and "to help the private sector to grow the market" for contraceptives.

"We are working in a devolved setting," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "I am not saying it is a perfect situation."

'I Don't Want Any More Children'

In the garbage dump on Manila Bay, Espinoza said she is nervous about getting an IUD. But she sees no alternative. "I already have so many kids I have trouble looking after them," she said.

Until her fourth child was born in October, Espinoza, 26, had time to work as a scavenger in the dump, collecting plastic bottles. On a good 10-hour day, she said, she could collect enough bottles to earn $1. Her husband sells salt and sometimes makes $4 a day.

Espinoza is the oldest of nine children and left school after fifth grade. She grew up in another Manila garbage dump, where her parents also worked as scavengers.

"I don't want any more children," she said. "Life is hard. Rice is expensive."

Friday, April 18, 2008

Poverty, hunger statistics debunk claims of prosperity

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:07:00 04/16/2008

Members of the House of Representatives, provincial governors and mayors demanded the cessation of all political rallies calling for truth and accountability. They claim these derail President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s economic achievements that are now providing the people with a better life.

The 2006 poverty and hunger statistics issued by the National Statistical Coordination Board show a different economic picture. The ranks of 23.8 million Filipinos considered poor in 2003 have swelled to 27.6 million in three years. On the other hand, the number of hungry people considered “food poor” also jumped from 10.8 million to 12.2 million.

The increasing numbers of poor and hungry Filipinos show that the social and economic programs of the Arroyo administration have not been effective. As long as there is no serious will on the part of the government to address the lack of access of the rural and urban poor to productive resources (like land, water, credit), then we can expect a further deterioration of the living standards of our people. This situation is aggravated by corrupt practices—in the national down to the municipal levels of government—which deprive millions of Filipinos of decent social services like education and health.

RAFFY REY HIPOLITO, advocacy officer, FoodFirst Information & Action Network (FIAN)-Philippines,

Filipinos number 88.6 million, according to 2007 census

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 04:34:00 04/17/2008

MANILA, Philippines -- There were 88.57 million Filipinos as of Aug. 1, 2007, based on the latest census conducted by the National Statistics Office (NSO).

The results of the Census of Population (Popcen 2007) were made official Wednesday with the signing by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of Proclamation No. 1489.

The Philippine population has swollen from 76.50 million in 2000 and 68.62 million in 1995 based on the 2000 and 1995 census, respectively.

The results of the latest census showed that the country’s average annual population growth rate for the period 2000 to 2007 was 2.04 percent. This was the lowest growth rate experienced by the Philippines since the 1960s.

The average annual population growth rate registered for the period 1960 to 1970 was 3.01 percent.

The population growth rate declined to 2.75 percent from 1970 to 1980, 2.35 percent from 1980 to 1990, and to 2.34 percent from 1990 to 2000.

The NSO expects the average annual population growth rate to further go down to 1.95 percent for the period 2005 to 2010.

Among the 17 administrative regions, Calabarzon (Region IV-A) had the largest population with 11.74 million, followed by the National Capital Region (11.55 million) and Central Luzon (9.72 million). The total population of these three regions comprised more than one-third of the Philippine population. Calabarzon is composed of the Southern Luzon provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon.

Of the 32 highly urbanized cities, Quezon City had the highest population with 2.68 million. It was followed by Manila (1.66 million) and Caloocan City (1.38 million).

Among the provinces, Cavite had the largest population (2.86 million), followed by Bulacan (2.83 million) and Pangasinan (2.65 million).

Five other provinces -- Laguna, Cebu (excluding the cities of Cebu, Lapu-Lapu and Mandaue), Negros Occidental (excluding Bacolod City), Rizal and Batangas -- breached the two-million mark.

On the other hand, three provinces had fewer than 100,000 residents, namely, Siquijor (88,000), Camiguin (81,000) and Batanes (16,000). Eliza Victoria, Inquirer Research

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Rethinking Population Policy

At Large

Rethinking population policy
By Rina Jimenez-David
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:40:00 04/08/2008

The logic seems impeccable. Experts have said that the “rice crisis,” which suddenly exploded into the headlines when rice prices around the world suddenly rose, is due to two factors: the reduction in the amount of arable land planted to rice, with the conversion of productive rice lands to residential subdivisions contributing to the problem; and a rapidly growing population which needs more rice than can currently be met by current levels of production and even importation.

Of course, authorities can do little about the lack of arable land, although I would think putting a halt to the conversion of productive and even irrigated agricultural land to other uses would make a difference. But our national leaders have long been in a position to do something about stemming or slowing our population growth rate. The trouble is, they have chosen to ignore the problem, and chose instead a “political” solution: the promotion of natural family planning (NFP) at the expense of modern, more efficient methods on the mistaken assumption that NFP was more “acceptable” to Filipinos.

It turns out, of course, that NFP, while totally acceptable to Catholic bishops and their ultra-conservative allies, is not at all accepted or preferred by Filipino couples. Despite years of policy and budgetary support, the promotion of NFP among couples of reproductive age has resulted in little or no impact at all on our population growth.

Ramon San Pascual, executive director of the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD), has pointed out in a statement that “the current population policy of the Arroyo government is problematic since more Filipinos prefer modern family planning over NFP and majority of those who do not practice family planning are the poor.”

* * *
Recently, however, administration officials admitted that as a result of the current shortfall in rice supply, one of the responses being considered is a “review” of the government’s population policy.

“We hope that they go beyond lip service and implement a population policy that includes unbiased promotion of both the natural and modern family planning methods,” San Pascual said in a statement. “For years, the Arroyo administration has given more focus to (the) natural family planning (NFP) method only. The responsibility of providing contraceptive commodities and promoting modern family planning methods were left to the local government units (LGUs).”

But this policy focus flew in the face of reality. “The 2006 Family Planning Survey of the National Statistics Office (NSO) reveals that Filipinos prefer modern family planning methods, with pills as the consistent Number 1 method of choice. In addition, the 2003 National Demographic and Health Survey of the NSO showed that poor women have three times more children than the rich and that only half of married women practice family planning because of lack of information and proper knowledge of family planning methods and services,” the PLCPD head added.

“We call on the Arroyo government to act on the problem of rapid population growth once and for all,” said San Pascual. “A rational population policy is imperative to mitigating hunger and poverty. Alongside the efforts to boost rice production and self-sufficiency in the country, the passage of a national law that will provide access to information and services on reproductive health, including family planning should also be given immediate attention.”

“As long as our population problem is not addressed, any poverty alleviation effort will surely fall short,” he declared.

The PLCPD is pushing for the passage of HB No. 17, the Reproductive Health, Responsible Parenthood and Population Management bill, filed by Albay province’s Rep. Edcel Lagman and SB Nos. 40 and 43 filed by Senators Rodolfo Biazon and Panfilo Lacson respectively as counterpart bills in the Senate.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Bishops now open to talks on population

This is good news. Certified... But I have to say, why do we wait for these things to happen (RICE CRISIS) when we have been telling you ( CHURCH, LEGISLATORS, GMA...) these all along ???

Again,it's no brainer really -- - MORE MOUTHS TO FEED = LESS FOOD EACH MOUTH RECEIVES.

Bishops now open to talks on population

By Jess Diaz
Sunday, April 6, 2008
Source: The Philippine Star

Catholic bishops, who have been frowning upon suggestions that the government implement birth control and family planning programs, are now open to discussing population issues in the wake of the rice crisis.

Caloocan City Bishop Deogracias Yniguez told a news forum in Quezon City recently that Church leaders recognize the correlation between food production and consumption and a burgeoning population.

If consumption is huge, there may be instances when production may not be able to keep up. This is where we need to discuss the parameters and the need for policy,” he said.

Yniguez, however, said that people should not just be considered as consumers but as producers as well. But he conceded that a manageable population might also result in faster food production.

Yniguez made the statement after Sorsogon Rep. Salvador Escudero III told him that leaders of the Catholic Church can no longer ignore the population explosion problem.

Escudero, who was agriculture minister during the Marcos regime and agriculture secretary during the Ramos administration, said the rice crisis is directly linked with the growing population.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, House appropriations committee chairman, had earlier blamed the rice crisis not only on the dwindling area of farmland but on population explosion as well.

The House of Representatives has also been urged by the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development Foundation Inc. (PLCPD) to provide answers to the current rice crisis through sound population management.

The country’s population, estimated at 90 million, consumes 33,000 tons of rice per day and the agriculture sector will have a hard time meeting the rice demand of the rapidly growing number of people, PLCPD executive director Ramon San Pascual said in a statement.

San Pascual said there are bills pending in Congress that will result in long-term, more sustainable solutions to the rice crisis such as managing rapid population growth, increasing rice production and protecting agricultural lands from illegal conversion.

Lagman said the country’s population growth rate of 2.36 percent, as documented by the National Statistics Office, outpaces the annual growth in rice production of 1.9 percent.

He also said that while the country’s rice production is almost twice that of Thailand, the latter’s population growth rate is only 1.4 percent. He urged the leadership of both the executive and legislative branches of government to support the enactment of House Bill 17 on reproductive health, responsible parenthood, family planning, and population management, of which he is a principal author.

A comprehensive national policy on reproductive health and population management is long overdue. No amount of bountiful harvest can adequately feed the growing multitude of Filipinos. The reality of the law of supply and demand, coupled with inflation, invariably escalates the price of rice,” he said.

Rio Magpayo, PLCPD’s agrarian reform and development issue officer, also said that unless a new law is passed that will extend funding for agrarian reform, there is a huge possibility that owners will convert these lands into commercial, residential or industrial uses. – With Antonieta Lopez