(A policy brief of the paper presented by BGen Galileo C Kintanar AFP (Ret) entitled “Development and Security Impact of Overpopulation: Challenges and Responses” to the Strategic Studies Group on 06 July 2010)
OVERPOPULATION IS A STATE OR condition where the numbers of a subject organism, say the human species, are too high in a given habitat, in relation to the sustainable carrying capacity of that habitat in terms of space, water, food and other resources.
The security impacts of overpopulation would depend on the gravity of the overpopulation. If the severity is mild, the security implications would normally be minor. There would be unemployment, underemployment, poverty, malnutrition, and criminality, but these should be within manageable or tolerable levels, not requiring resort to emergency measures. As it grows graver, however, overpopulation would be accompanied by worsening symptoms, including food riots, epidemics of diseases, civil unrest, rampant criminality, insurgency, and/or anarchy.
What is ironic is that those who belong to the poorest families are the one who have most children. With limited resources, they are still obliged to support the needs of all family members. Children who belong to the poorest families are destined to a life of poverty before they reach adolescence. This explains why overpopulation and poverty are closely related.
1. Population Growth Rate (PGR) vs. Population Size
These two concepts may indeed be intercorrelated, but they are not necessarily interchangeable. There are countries, notably China and Japan, that have low or even negative population growth rates (PGR), yet are considered overpopulated. This becomes more obvious when equated with population density.
2. Depletion of Basic Necessities for Existence
Some environmentalists claim that humanity has already eclipsed the planet’s carrying capacity, and continues to deplete resources beyond sustainable regenerating capacities. We are eating our way to starvation, drinking our way to dehydration, breathing our way to asphyxiation. We are told that humanity made a great mistake when it domesticated crops and animals and turned from nomadic hunting and scavenging to permanent settlements fed through agriculture.
If not for agriculture, the world’s human population today would be only half a million, instead of over 6.8 billion.
3.Impact of Population Size
If the severity of overpopulation is mild, the security implications would normally be minor. There would be unemployment, underemployment, poverty, malnutrition, and criminality, but these should be within manageable or tolerable levels, not requiring resort to emergency measures. As it grows graver, however, overpopulation would be accompanied by worsening symptoms, including food riots, epidemics of diseases, civil unrest, rampant criminality, insurgency, and/or anarchy.
Strategies to Deal with the Issues
1. Assessment of the Need for Population Management
In anticipation of the overpopulation becoming worse, the government has revived attempts to control population growth. This may be seen as a preemptive security measure, but the opposition it has provoked may also be seen as a security threat. And so it may be asked, is it timely to press population management at this time, or is it counterproductive?
2. Population Size vis-à-vis Economic Development
Statistical analysis strongly suggests that mere population size is not a primary factor in determining a country’s development level. A greater deal depends on a country’s resources, and the composition and quality of its population, as well as its leadership.
This tells us that population size alone is not a determinant of development, but rather as an obstacle or as a driver.
Thus, overpopulation by itself is not a problem, but a challenge. Failing to hurdle the challenge makes overpopulation a problem, or a crisis. Success turns it into an asset.
3. Failure of the Philippines to Capitalize on its Population
What makes our population a problem, even when it was smaller, is the chronic failure of several administrations to mobilize the population as an asset. Our educational system has degenerated, reducing the global competitiveness of our high literacy rate. Our economy, bled by corruption, remains unable to create enough jobs for our growing population of workers, making us critically dependent on overseas employment.
Despite much talk over agricultural modernization and other safety nets, our farmers are unable to produce rice, vegetables, poultry and other products as cost-efficiently as China, Thailand and Vietnam.
Key Points to Consider
1. Population as a Basis for Politico-Economic Hegemony
Hitler justified Germany’s invasion of neighboring as well as distant countries with the concept of lebensraum, or living space, as Japan did with the concept of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. It was not merely living space, of course, that these expansionist regimes wanted, but also resources like oil, rubber, tin, iron, coal and other assets essential to their war machineries.
Nonetheless, space itself is valuable in relation to location, as is apparent from the escalation of real estate prices in key localities.
2.Geographic and Political Topology of the Philippines in the Population and Economic Development Paradigm
It may also be pointed out that our archipelagic setting has set back our economic development. The countries and localities with the highest per capita GDPs generally have compact and mostly small territories, which greatly simplifies governance, the delivery of public services, and economic activities, allowing them to achieve higher efficiencies.
It is not sheer population size that hinders development, but negatives in the quality both of population and of governance. Population size cannot be validly used as a scapegoat for underdevelopment, when corruption might be the bigger culprit.
3. Stand of the Philippine Government to Population Management
Historically, population was a non-issue in the Philippines before 1967, the year that the Philippines signed the UN Declaration on Population. The signing was not controversial because it produced nothing immediate. It was not until August 1971 that Republic Act 6365 (Population Act of the Philippines) created the Population Commission and tasked it to recommend solutions to the population issue.
Upon the PopComm’s recommendation, the Marcos government launched the National Population Program, which advocated small family size. In December 1972, Presidential Decree 79 revised the Population Act; it tasked the PopComm to make available “all acceptable methods of contraception” to “prevent resort to unacceptable practice of birth control such as abortion.” In July 1976, it became mandatory under P.D. 965 for marriage license applicants to undergo seminars on family planning and responsible parenthood. In September 1976, P.D. 1013 included sterilization among the population program’s acceptable fertility control procedures, entitled to benefits under the Medical Care or Medicare law.
In 1991, population policy programs were devolved in principle to LGUs, but it was not until February 1996 that E.O. 307 formalized and made effective of such devolution. In its last months in office in 2010, recoiling from the election-season controversy ignited by the Reproductive Health Bill, the Arroyo administration mainstreamed the Catholic church- backed Natural Family Planning or NFP approach as “the only acceptable mode of birth control,” and left it to LGUs to take the initiative (and the expenses) as to other methods.
1.Objective and Comprehensive Study of Population Management Legislations
Deliberations should be open to the public, to make the debate more intelligent and at the same time more democratic. On this regard, issues should be studied more objectively and more comprehensively, before making a final decision on the bill, once it is submitted to the President for either approval into law or for certification as an urgent administration bill.
2. Importance of Political Coherence
This enables government to focus on development, instead of devoting significant resources to grappling with insurgency, dissidence, and criminality. It is worth noting that the world’s highest GDP per capita countries and localities share some features in common: political stability, the absence of insurgencies, and low criminality. It is with doubt whether Philippines can aspire to their GDP per capita levels through mere economic development programs.
In a wider perspective, our population situation, if it is a problem, demands a package of political, social, cultural and moral reforms, just as insurgencies require not just a military but also a political solution.
Population size, by itself, is not a problem. Failing to hurdle the challenge makes overpopulation a problem, or a crisis. Success turns it into an asset. In this sense, those who say that overpopulation is a myth that will benefit only the makers and the manufacturers of condoms, and other contraceptives, are correct.
What makes our population a problem, even when it was smaller, is the chronic failure of several administrations to mobilize the population as an asset. Our educational system has degenerated, reducing the global competitiveness of our high literacy rate. Lack of information has been of the cause of overpopulation. Our economy, bled by corruption, remains unable to create enough jobs for our growing population of workers, making us critically dependent on overseas employment. Despite much talk over agricultural modernization and other safety nets, our farmers are unable to produce rice, vegetables, poultry and other products as cost-efficiently as China, Thailand and Vietnam – which is partly why we’re asking where the fertilizer funds ended up in 2004.
We have failed to achieve sustainable unity. We stand divided by politics, by religion, by issues. Unity is important to enable government to focus on development, instead of devoting significant resources to grappling with insurgency, dissidence, and criminality. The government should also consider population problem a priority. With more people to serve and less resources to offer, the government needs to be more discreet to help the neediest.
In addition to being a political question, the population dilemma poses a moral issue. Offering the people free choice, to the extent of inducing them not only through the public and free availability of artificial contraceptives, but also through advertising and information and education campaigns, to actually practice contraception, is a moral issue. The Roman Catholic Church is capable of defending its own position on this, in opposing the population management program proposed by the Reproductive Health Bill. But everyone should responsibly consider the consequences. Free choice means people can accept or reject the program. If enough people reject it, such that our population continues to grow anyway, what’s next? Impose a compulsory family size limit, to be enforced by infanticide? Criminalize the bearing of children over the prescribed limit? If the wanton and casual use of contraception breeds permissiveness and decadence, irresponsibility and indiscipline, what’s next? Who will be liable for the consequences?
Everyone should be aware or knowledgeable of what is going on and everybody should have something to do to control the soaring population growth.