Bernardo M. Villegas
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Pro-Life Governor

          Governor Gwendolyn Garcia of Cebu is setting a good example to LGU heads about the appropriate attitude towards the role of population in economic progress.  She exploded the Malthusian myth of overpopulation in a speech she delivered at the Life Congress of the Human Life International-Philippines held recently at the Cebu Summit Hotel in Cebu City.  She minced no words in assailing government policy makers at the national level for hyping on overpopulation "as a scapegoat for their failures to provide basic services to the Filipino people."  Basing her convictions on some of the most scientific studies of economists and other social scientists over at least the last fifty years, she rightly stated that "People do not cause the scarcity of resources.  People are resources that if tapped well and led faithfully, are the solution rather than the problem to whatever troubles the world."   Her remarks were a very timely antidote to the screaming headlines about the 7 billion people in the world today and the unhealthy focus on the problem rather than the opportunity of what 7 billion can be as human resources and vast markets for all the goods and services human ingenuity can produce.

          I am especially glad to see the head of a most progressive province in the rapidly growing Central Visayas region setting the right example to other governors and mayors about the intelligent response to the challenge of population growth.  I am convinced that the so-called RH battle will be fought at the local government level rather than the national level.  Even if the RH Bill is not passed, there will always be LGU heads who, if uninformed and unenlightened about the real approaches to poverty eradication, will resort to distributing contraceptives as a panacea to mass poverty.  They will waste scarce resources on this non-solution instead of focusing on improving the quality of basic education, skills training, microcredit, rural infrastructures, SME development, social housing, and a host of more positive solutions to poverty.

          Urbanizing regions like Cebu, which is among the most densely populated in the Philippines but also with one of the highest per capita incomes, should avoid falling into the same trap as highly urbanized cities in China like Shanghai and Guangzhou where population control has already caused serious shortages of labor.  There are already multinational enterprises that are closing down their plant operations in these Chinese cities because of the scarcity of labor that has as one of the manifestations, not only rapidly rising wages, but very high rates of attrition.  As reported by Dr. Chandramogan Anamirtham, the CEO of Hitachi Philippines, attrition rates in some Chinese cities can be as high as 30 percent and during Chinese New Year can rise to as high as 50 percent.  In contrast, in cities like Binan and Sto. Rosa, Laguna, attrition rate is only 5 percent.  For this reason, there is a reverse flow from China of labor-intensive operations to Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia, ASEAN countries that are well endowed with huge populations. Not only will these countries attract more investments because of their plentiful human resources.  They will also weather more successfully the ongoing global crisis precipitated by the sovereign debt troubles of European countries because they can turn to their domestic markets for consumption and investment growth.

          Although we cannot compare the entire Philippines of 93 million people to a country like Singapore with less than 5 million, there are cities like those in Metro Manila, Metro Cebu, Central Luzon, Central Visayas, and urbanizing Mindanao that can face labor shortages if they aggressively push population control like Singapore did in the last century.  These urbanizing regions of the Philippines can learn from the sad experience of Singapore with birth control programs.  It is well known that Mentor Minister Lee Kwan Yew of Singapore regrets having aggressively implemented the "stop at two population" program during his term as Prime Minister in the 1970s to the 1980s.  This historical fact is evident to the many Filipinos and other immigrant workers who are now in Singapore as a supplement to the dwindling work force resulting from the very low fertility rate of Singaporean women.  Elmer Baguioro, a Filipino chemical engineer residing in Singapore remarked in an interview:  "It's unfortunate for any society that there are still those who cannot or refuse to see that 'reproductive health' is actually  being used to mask the population control advocacy.  A First World country like Singapore did implement mechanisms since the 1970s to limit childbirth and the government was very aggressive about it, only for Lee Kuan Yew to later on admit that it was one of his serious blunders."

          LGU heads all over the Philippines should consider seriously the pro-life values expressed by Governor Garcia of Cebu.  She said:  "I do not subscribe to this lazy pedestrian view that the less people we have, the better it will be for all of us."  She referred to the experiences of many European countries and China which now have an aging population that threatens the very gains that population control had promised.  Going beyond economic issues, Governor Garcia hits the mark about the devaluation of human life implicit in the contraceptive mentality.  Those pushing for the RH Bill have the tendency to "reduce humanity into the less human term 'population', as mere statistics that economic planners factor into their infallible equations."  She emphasized that to surrender to this line of reasoning is not an option and to compromise human life is not the solution. Despite all their protestations about reducing maternal mortality and the rate of illegal abortion, those who are advocating the passage of the RH Bill demonstrate a strong bias against the value of human life and the value of people.  We are thankful to leaders like Governor Gwendolyn Garcia for exposing their true colors.  For comments, my email address is bernardo.villegas@uap.asia.