Overpopulation not a main cause of poverty in the Philippines


I am writing in reaction to Ben de Leon’s letter. (Inquirer, 7/5/11)

After having served for almost three years in the past as secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, I agree with De Leon: the latest fishkill and the previous ones are a warning to us.

However, I strongly disagree with his view about the cause of the fishkill and his stand that what we should address immediately is the country’s growing population. The fish pens and fish cages, many of which are owned by wealthy individuals and groups and even by foreigners, are the main cause of the fishkill. They are present in almost all of our bodies of water, contributing to their pollution, degradation and the inevitable “fishkill outbreaks.” As environment secretary, I was able to gain some progress in removing these fish cages from our waters, specifically in Taal Lake and Laguna de Bay, and in cleaning up portions of Manila Bay.

This fishkill is a warning for us not to reduce the population, but to take better care, and to be better stewards, of our natural resources, which God has blessed our country so abundantly with. We all know that the main causes of poverty are mismanagement of these resources, corruption and inequitable distribution of the country’s wealth—not overpopulation.

Another point that De Leon so boldly stated is that “we must do away with the obsolete notion that “ang [maraming] anak ang yaman ng lahi”; and that the country needs a family planning program to solve poverty. On the contrary, this is a basic principle of our culture: our greatest treasure is our family and our children. De Leon and his organization are free to promote their advocacies on family planning and birth control. They are free to do whatever they want as they are now doing, propagating their misguided philosophy on family and life. But to advocate the passage of a law that would impose this on us and the rest of the population who still value the sanctity of life and the family is totally wrong.

Our country has more than enough natural resources to provide for everyone’s needs. The problem lies in their distribution and utilization. We have either abused or misused our resources for selfish interests, and have corrupted government for our individual benefit.

Let us not mislead ourselves into believing that our country’s population is to be blamed for everything that goes wrong. If cared for, guided and made productive, our people will always be our country’s greatest asset, as our OFWs are now proving, keeping the economy afloat even at the most critical time of the world economic crisis. A united and efficient workforce, supported by an efficient and inspired leadership, will contribute greatly to our progress and development.

We are reminded of what Mahatma Gandhi once said: “There is enough in the world for everyone’s need; there is not enough for everyone’s greed.”

—LITO ATIENZA, former environment secretary and former Manila mayor; spokesman, Buhay Party List

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  • jefferson

    I pity the logic of this writer. Who said population is the ONLY cause of poverty? With how things are going in the Philippines, population growth has been a major factor of many families not getting out of poverty. How can a bus driver of minimum wage serve a family of 8 kids? When the educated middle class aims for 2 or 3 kids, being able to budget their resources for food, school uniforms, etc.

    And it’s funny you mentioned how OFWs are considered an asset. Yes, in terms of our GDP, they contribute. But have you seen the quality of life of majority of our OFWs, who are blue collared workers?

    This article wreaks of stupidity.

  • Anonymous

    This story is full of STUPIDITY indeed! We’ve been poor for decades and continuous to become so because aside from the fact that we have had evil and corrupt politicians, our population is increasing rapidly! Just check out the number of students on public schools, how can a good teacher manage 100 students per class? How can we manage our resources and take better care of our environment when there are more people than the resources to care for? We won’t get out of poverty unless the government takes the first step in controlling our blowing population. The former mayor should’ve thought of and suggested ways and alternatives on how to control overpopulation and combat corruption and equitably distribute the wealth that belongs to the Filipino whom greedy politicians have corrupted.

  • Ilda

    “Is the Philippines really overpopulated?

    First, let us define overpopulation. Overpopulation is when the number of organisms exceeds the carrying capacity of its habitat. Have Filipinos exceeded the carrying capacity of the Philippines? My answer to that is: because the number of people living in major cities is not in line with its carrying capacity, there is overcrowding. To a great extent, the available sustainable resources of the country does not support the size of the population. So therefore, the overcrowding has more to do with how the government has mismanaged the situation.

    In Manila’s North Cemetery for instance, among the dead there are an estimated 10,000 living-and-breathing Filipino squatters who consider the 100-acre burial ground as their permanent residence. These Filipinos who belong to the country’s below-poverty-line underclass have found a way to survive by occupying the space reserved for the dead. Clearly, there is an issue of overcrowding here.Out of the country’s 100 million, only a 38.2 million are productive or employed. Obviously, there are more Filipinos who are part of the unproductive members of society and who do not contribute to the growth of the economy. They in fact, just occupy precious space and pull down the economy.

    Overcrowding is the least of Philippine society’s problems due to government mismanagement; crime rate goes up along with the growing population because people fight for the same limited resources. Criminals end up in equally overcrowded and almost inhumane prison cells as well and as a result, there is no rehabilitation program in place for convicted criminals. This means that the minute they rejoin society, chances are, they will go back to doing criminal activities”

    To read more: http://getrealphilippines.​com/blog/2011/03/over-popu​lation-de-mystified/

  • Donald Strong

    If we have enough to feed everyone today, what about tomorrow? The Philippine population is growing fast, food production (especially RICE!) is not growing in the Philippines. We have to import more rice very year. Rice is steady, but population goes up.

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