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Overpopulation not a main cause of poverty in the Philippines

/ 06:10 AM July 18, 2011

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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TAGS: Department of Environment and Natural Resources, fish kill, fish kill outbreaks, Laguna de Bay, overpopulation, Poverty, Taal Lake
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