The Philippine population hit a new milestone on Sunday, July 27, with the birth of the 100 millionth Filipino, a healthy baby girl.
Baby Chonalyn was born at the Dr. Jose Fabella Hospital in Manila at 12:35 am, officially pushing the population of the country to the historic milestone that highlights the challenge of providing for more people in the already-impoverished nation.
She is the daughter of Dailin Cabigayan, a resident of Sampaloc, Manila.
Baby Chonalyn is one of 100 babies born in state hospitals all over the archipelago who received the symbolic designation of “100,000,000th baby”.
“This is both an opportunity and a challenge… an opportunity we should take advantage of and a challenge we recognize,” Juan Antonio Perez, executive director of the official Commission on Population, told Agence France-Presse.
Mother and child were presented to the media at the hospital in Sta Cruz, Manila.
Earlier, population officials said the Philippine population would reach 100 million at around 12:06 am Sunday.
This was based on population projections by the Philippine Statistics Authority, which said 3 babies are born every minute.
Malacañang said it has renewed its commitment to fight poverty and ensure development reaches the poor, the state-run Philippine News Agency reported.
In an interview on dzRB on Saturday, July 26, Deputy Presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said, “Even if the Philippine population is growing, what’s important is that we must be able to tailor fit our programs to help the fifth quintile of the population to be able to get out of that demographic.”
Valte added that majority of government programs, including the conditional cash transfer program and universal healthcare, are targeted toward the poorest of the population.
While a growing population means a larger workforce, it also means more dependents in a country where about 25% of people are living in poverty, Perez said.
He said the Philippines had to find a way to bring services to the poorest families while also lowering the average number of children that fertile women will bear in their lifetimes.
“We’d like to push the fertility rate down to two children per (woman’s) lifetime,” from the current level of an average of three per woman, he said.
While celebrating the birth of the babies with cake and gifts of clothing and blankets, the government will also monitor each of the designated 100 children over the coming years to see if they are receiving the required health services, Perez added.
Chonalyn’s father, 45-year-old van driver Clemente Sentino, said he was grateful for the government aid, but expressed confidence he could support his child and his partner.
He and the child’s mother are not yet married. “She just happened to get pregnant. But we do have plans to get married,” he told Agence France-Presse.
“I make just enough to get by but at least my job pays regularly. We will find a way to make it fit,” he said.
Efforts to control the Philippines’ population growth have long been hampered by the influence of the Roman Catholic Church, which counts about 80% of Filipinos as followers and which disapproves of all forms of artificial birth control.
It was only in April that the government finally overcame over a decade of Church opposition to implement a reproductive health law providing the poor with birth control services.
Perez said with the law’s implementation, about two to three million women who previously did not have access to family planning now do.
Meanwhile, Father Melvin Castro, head of the commission on family and life of the country’s Catholic bishops, was quoted by a church-run radio station as praising the ballooning population, as there would be more “young workers” to power the economy. – With reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com