The Corner

Population Growth in the Philippines

Christopher, I suspect that we might have to agree to disagree on how we interpret the demographic history of Asia over the last half century, but can we at least agree that the implication (in your paragraph 5) that the proposed Philippines legislation is being “imposed” upon the country was simply a rhetorical flourish? There’s nothing wrong with that, of course (I certainly plead guilty to many similar offenses), but just for the record, what is happening in the Philippines is that a democratically elected legislature is, well, legislating.

As for the law being “coercive” (an adjective you use), well, all laws are in a sense coercive, but assuming the text I have here is accurate and reasonably up-to-date, this particular piece of legislation does not seem to be particularly so.

In particular I note that “there shall be no demographic or population targets . . .”  (Section 3 (11)). It is true that Section 20 does talk about the state “assist[ing] couples, parents and individuals to achieve their desired family size within the context of responsible parenthood for sustainable development and encourage[ing] them to have two children as the ideal family size” but that same section goes on (quite rightly) to say that “attaining the ideal family size is neither mandatory nor compulsory. No punitive action shall be imposed on parents having more than two children.”

It seems, however, that you regard some types of advice as more equal than others. You quote the Prime Minister of Singapore (a more authoritarian place than the Philippines incidentally) ‘advising’ his citizens to have more children and you do so not only without concern but with obvious approval. Double standards?

And yes, the proposed law does provide for sex education in the classroom and, in my view, quite correctly so. I also note (section 16)  that such teaching has to be, among other things, “age appropriate,” and that it must include “values formation” and the provision of  “knowledge and skills” designed to discourage teen pregnancy, and encourage “responsible relationship[s].” Other topics to be taught include dangers associated with abortion and the fact that abortion is illegal in the Philippines.

Then there’s that ‘pre-Cana’:

Section 17: Each Local Population Officer of every city and municipality shall furnish free instructions and information on family planning, responsible parenthood, breastfeeding, infant nutrition and other relevant aspects of this Act to all applicants for marriage license.  In the absence of a local Population Officer, a Family Planning Officer under the Local Health Office shall discharge the additional duty of the Population Officer.

Section 18: No marriage license shall be issued by the Local Civil Registrar unless the applicants present a Certificate of Compliance issued for free by the local Family Planning Office certifying that they had duly received adequate instructions and information on family planning, responsible parenthood, breastfeeding and infant nutrition.

Making this information freely available is, or ought to be, unobjectionable. I’d certainly prefer that it was not an obligatory precondition of being granted a marriage license, but, sadly, the institution of marriage tends to bring out the nanny state in many governments . . .

Also on the question of abortion, I note that Section 3 (13) of the bill provides:

This Act recognizes that abortion is illegal and punishable by law . . .

Somehow I feel that the real issue here is contraception — or, more accurately, opposition to it . . .

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