The Lopez Group Foundation Inc. headed by our Chairman Oscar M. Lopez and President Rafael M. Alunan III, strongly support the passage of the Reproductive Health Bill in both Houses of Congress. We also believe that the time for debates is over and the time to vote is now!
Our population today stands at 94 million and growing at an alarming rate of 2.05 annually. We remain the third highest and fastest growing population in Southeast Asia and the twelfth in the world. Continued rapid population growth can be a burden to the economy, as the age structure of our population is predominantly young. Even with those gainfully employed, we still have more dependents than the adult population can decently provide for. For the labor force this translates to 6 people in the working ages supporting 11.2 dependents. This dependency burden constricts savings that are critical to raising the investment rate required to significantly grow our economy, generate jobs, and steadily reduce poverty.
We see the direct correlation of population growth with poverty. According to a study by the Asia-Pacific Policy Center, had we effectively managed our population beginning in 1975, the way Thailand did, at least 3.6 million more Filipinos could have been lifted out of poverty from 1975 and 2000. This could also have meant savings in basic education of P128 billion from 1991 to 2000, and basic health cost savings of P52 billion from 1996 to 2000. And these savings could have been used to improve education and health care standards or raise agricultural productivity.
If our population growth rate remains high and poor couples continue to have more children than they desire and can support, our education and health systems will continue to burst at the seams with the fast-increasing demands for social services. This will continue to result in a deterioration of the standards of education and health services. In turn, it means a lowering of the quality of our human capital stock so crucial to the productivity of businesses and the competitiveness of our economy. Even if we continue creating more employment we will just be running in place and will never catch up to our rapid population growth.
We in the Lopez Group acknowledge that the problem stems from the lack of national policy thus provision of state-managed family planning and reproductive health programs and services is close to nil. This situation puts great pressure in national development and nation building.
Since 2006, the Lopez Group has been implementing a Family Planning in the Workplace program with our biggest companies providing family planning and maternal health services to their employees. We believe in walking the talk. We now challenge the legislature to do the same.
We have followed the debates on the reproductive health bill closely. We know that it has been both exhaustive and exhausting. Time is NOT on our side. We deem that the debates have properly addressed the issue extensively. We thus call on Congress to end the debates and VOTE for the RH Bill NOW!
(* Press statement read at the RHAN Press Conference on October 11, 2011 at Sulo Riviera Hotel)