Friday, July 23, 2010

Business groups back Consensus Bill on Population (CBP)

Why is the business sector becoming involved in a population bill? Don’t they want more people to have more customers for their business? “Yes, we would like to have more customers, but we would like to have paying customers. It is not so much the number of people. It is the quality of people that we need to have,” said Mr. Vicente Paterno, a businessman and former legislator who now chairs the Joint Steering Committee (JSC) on a Consensus Bill on Population (CBP) during the Cebu consultation on the proposed bill on July 2, 2010. The JSC was created to guide the group efforts for a CBP.

A CBP aims to raise the family’s human capital, enable them to seek more remunerative employment, and break the poverty trap. “The business groups want to increase the human capital of this country because we are in competition with the rest of the world. If we have 40% of our population not able to join in this competition for skills or brains or abilities, we lose out,” Mr. Paterno explained.

Based on the National Demographic and Health Survey of 2008, poorest families actually have more children than they can properly nourish and educate. For the business community, particularly those in the JSC such as the businesspeople in the Bishops-Businessmen Conference (BBC), the Makati Business Club (MBC), the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), and the Philippine Center for Population and Development (PCPD), helping the poor provide quality life to their children is a matter of social justice. Bearing more children than parents can send to school impairs their ability to help the family escape the poverty trap. “If we do not do something about it, we will have deeper intergenerational poverty – the poor having poorer children and grandchildren,” said Mr. Paterno.

The bill seeks a better quality of life for all Filipinos through a poverty reduction strategy of which family planning is a direct element. This can be done through the local government units extending priority assistance to the poor, by reorganizing and strengthening the Commission on Population, and by developing modalities on sexuality and reproductive health education.

In a series of consultations of the JSC with theologians, economists, population and development experts and civil society leaders, it was confirmed that the existing law on Population (RA 6365) passed in August 1971 and amended by PDs 79 and 1204 are no longer operating on correct premises. It was legislated to meet the grave and social economic challenge of high rate of population growth which was over 3%. At that time, the average number of children per mother was 6. In 2007, the population growth rate has gone down to 2.04%. The number of children per mother has also declined to 3.28, but mainly among the wealthier and better educated. It has not taken place so much among the poorer families and those with less education. The proposed bill will be an amendment of this law.

To make the bill a truly consensus one, the JSC also subjected the rudiments of the bill to rounds of consultations in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao with an average of 45 sectoral representatives per forum. The JSC sought the advice of various sectors and opinion leaders on population and development, business and academe. Most of the forums reaffirmed the need for the bill to promote an effective family planning and management programs focused on the poorest couples and parents; strengthening of the Commission on Population; and effective implementation of population program at the local government level. Many of the participants commended the process of evolving a bill on population, its focus on human capital development, and the education of the poor. They appreciated the bringing in of a good mix of participants to the forum, and the proponent’s openness to dialogue. The culminating regional forum was held at the NCR this morning.

The business groups leading the initiative anticipates the bill will be finalized by mid-August and thereafter filed in both Houses this 15th Congress.

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