MANILA, Philippines--A group of reproductive health advocates on Friday urged the government to immediately implement a stringent and long-term population program to minimize the adverse effects of the looming food crisis.
The Forum for Family Planning and Development Inc. (FFPDI) also called on the Roman Catholic clergy to rethink their opposition to artificial birth control methods.
According to the group, the increasing population will only undermine the efforts of the government to bring about economic development, especially in the countryside.
"Population and food production are two intertwined factors. You cannot ignore the other and hope to solve the country's woes," said Benjamin de Leon, FFPDI president.
By 2050, the Philippines would already be the 10th most populous country in the world based on the projection of the Population Reference Bureau (PRB), the group said.
At the current 2.1-percent annual growth rate, the group said the population would have grown to at least 69 percent more from the current 80 million at the time.
"Millions of Filipinos suffer from poverty due to large and unplanned families. Unless we give priority to the problem of ballooning population, every effort to counter poverty would be pointless," De Leon said.
He added, "Unless the government implements a serious population program and the Church abandons its strong opposition to family planning, rice and food crises will continue to plague the country as demand for food increases."
De Leon said statistics from the Department of Agriculture showed that the national daily consumption of rice was currently at 33,000 metric tons, about 4,000 metric tons more than the country's rice consumption a few years ago.
In only a year, he said, the country's per capita consumption of rice rose from 103.16 kilos in 2007 to 134 kilograms this year.
He said the data indicated that 21 percent of children under 5 years old would be underweight in the next few years.
De Leon said that as the population increased, land devoted for food production decreased as arable and agricultural lands gave way to industrial, residential and commercial use.
He said the problem of diminishing agricultural land was further worsened by the rising demand in biofuels.
"The PRB data likewise projected that by 2050, the country will have only 28 percent natural habitat, or land that has not been converted to human use," he warned.
By that time, he said, at least 296 Filipinos will have to share with each other every square kilometer of land in the country.