On the 100 millionth Filipino

On the 100 millionth Filipino
Privilege Speech
Senator Pia S. Cayetano
27 August 2014

Last month marked the birth of the one hundred millionth Filipino. The Philippines is now one of only twelve countries in the world with populations in excess of 100 million. [1]

Mr. President, it will be recalled that during the debates on the Reproductive Health Law, the relation between population growth and development came up. Some groups took the view that population growth was a positive thing for development.

What I’ve always believed is that population must be nurtured. A huge population on its own cannot be said to be an asset to the country if the people are not equipped with the tools they need, not only to get by and survive, but to thrive. I had the opportunity to study this in a bit more detail last December when I took a course entitled “Transnational Security Cooperation” at the Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies. Part of our curriculum was on Demographics and Security by Dr. Alfred Oehlers. In his presentation, he defined Demography as the study of human population which included:

 Population size and growth
 Structure and characteristics
 Location and movements
 Economic activities
 Population needs

Using this definition, we ask ourselves, what kind of population do we have? It is big and young, given that our crude birth rate is at a high of 24.62 births per thousand population [2], which is one of the highest birth rates in Asia. [3] But what is the socio-economic level of our population? What is the educational level? How many live in poverty? How many are employed? How do we reconcile this with our poverty rate at a high 27.9% [4], our unemployment rate of 7% [5], and underemployment rate of 22.7%? [6]

We need to study our demographic security by identifying potential stresses, challenges, and conflicts arising from our own demographic challenges. These would include the Philippines’ unique and collective needs, tensions, and compositions, as well as key stress factors. By doing so, we would be able to craft responses and policies that could serve the needs of our people now, as well as prepare us for the future. We would also be able to harness our potential as a nation and build on our young population.

In 2013, there were 19.2 million youth in the Philippines. [7] We need to invest in the growth and strength of our youth, and address the opportunities and challenges of having a young population. This does not only mean unemployment, but also nurturing their hopes and dreams. Our K-12 student population of 20.67 million, which will only increase over the next 20 years [8], also needs to be highly invested on, as it sets us up to be an attractive recruitment destination in the near future. The national government spends only 2.5% of GDP on education, which is less than our ASEAN counterparts. We also spend the least per student compared to our ASEAN-6 neighbors.[9]

Since a big part of our population and our single biggest contributor to GNP are OFWs and their remittances, what can we do to make their lives better? Are we content that they are “forced” to leave the country to get a job? Should we not have more opportunities here for them? And if they do choose to leave, are low-paying unskilled jobs their target or can we improve their lives by giving them better skills to qualify for jobs with higher pay?

Mr. President, let us keep in mind that we cannot irresponsibly bank on a young and growing population without a master plan. On the macro-level, the country’s economic and finance managers make plans and provide a budget for the country’s economic future. But so should we equip every couple and every parent to do the same for their family and future children.

[1] http://manilastandardtoday.com/2014/01/07/coming-soon-100-million-filipinos

[2] 2013 est.

[3] bbc.com/news/world-asia-15521300

[4] United Nations Development Programme.

http://www.undp.org/content/philippines/en/home/countryinfo/

[5] As of July 2012. National Quickstat as of January 2013. National Statistics Office.

http://www.census.gov.ph/sites/default/files/attachments/ird/quickstat/January2013.pdf

[6] As of July 2012. National Quickstat as of January 2013. National Statistics Office.

http://www.census.gov.ph/sites/default/files/attachments/ird/quickstat/January2013.pdf

[7] popcom.gov.ph

[8] monitor.icef.com

[9] investphilippines.info

“A huge population on its own cannot be said to be an asset to the country if the people are not equipped with the tools they need, not only to get by and survive, but to thrive.” (File photo: Sen. Pia Cayetano at a recent visit to the maternal ward of the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in Cebu City)

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