Monday, April 04, 2005

The Population Question: To Triumph In the Face of Adversity

A Philippine Daily Inquirer news update this afternoon called the Church incessant stance against birth control a “demographic timebomb”. I asked what bomb? Haven’t it yet exploded in our faces? Or would it really explode?

The Philippines today is said to have one of the highest population growth rate in the world and in thirty years, we are set to double in numbers from the present number of 84 million Filipino souls. Our national leaders are pushing the panic button because of this and thus the Congress is mulling the eventual passing of the “Responsible Parenthood and Population Act”, a bill that has already earned its own share of controversy.

I think we should define clearly where the lines are in this population issue and strictly set the parameters of the question. For certain, the State is so worried about the population explosion and that is why it is currently propagating birth control programs in order to stave away a future where there would be just too many Filipino mouths to feed and too little food available. On the one hand, the Church is strongly against any form of contraception and is now at loggerhead with the present Arroyo administration because of this (it was at odds even with other administrations in the past). We see two “immovable forces” here that moves towards an inevitable head-on collision and what I see is that, collision may still be evaded only if State and Church could begin “to agree to disagree”.

The Church under our laws is a juridical person and just like any other person, it has the right to speak or not to speak. Despite our constitution’s negation of intervention by the Church into State matters, and vice versa, no law can prevent Church leaders to declare its own ideas on the population issue, and if it criticizes the government for its pro-contraception policies, this is but a consequence of democracy and it may do as well---of course within the limits set for the freedom of press and of expression. The Church I think has no choice but to act and speak according to the tenets of its faith.

The State on the one and has the sole prerogative to manage the nation’s various concerns according to accepted wisdom, in consonance to the leanings ensconced in our fundamental laws and even the Church has no personality to cut down any of its decisions.

In the light of the things said above, the Church and State should “agree to disagree” for they are clearly harboring irreconcilable differences, so irreconcilable in fact that it may take a thousand days and a thousand nights to debate the population issue and most likely, they still won’t meet a delta of understanding by then. So live and let live.

Am I worried about population explosion? Of course, I am. But I always believe that in adversity, our people will become stronger and more resilient that despite the problems brought about by a burgeoning population, we can still survive and be capable enough to feed our people. I do not entirely agree that it is an irrefutable conclusion that once population is high, the people will suffer. The Malthusian Theory has its own failings and it has not been perfect all along. Japan has nearly double our population right now even though its geographic size is just as small as ours but it could feed its people even at more times than necessary. The Japanese people had proven that with resiliency and persistent will to arise from any adversity, a high population would not be a hindrance to the production of wealth and resources that is more than enough to feed the people.

World’s population is generally on the upswing and this is just but expected for it is man’s nature to produce and procreate, it can’t be help. It is downswings in population numbers that should be an anomaly of nature. Remember that just a few centuries ago, world’s population was so minimal that you’d think life was so much better then. But it wasn’t. Would you opt to live in the 12th century, where plaques abound and often-cruel wars between nations and kingdoms proliferated from Asia to Europe, or would you still want to live at the present world. I would still choose to live in the present world anytime. Population in the 12th century was so small that elephants may have been more in number than humans but it does not mean that mankind had live a more sublime existence then than we do today. The proliferation of the human race is one of the main reasons why we had begun to discover and invent things, in order to struggle against adversities. If we were not strained to feed more mouths, no one would have invented the wheel. Necessity they say is the mother of all invention.

Population growth is a natural consequence of existence. It is when population starts to decline radically that one can suspect an anomaly.


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