10/27/2004, 00.00
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Filipino economic lobbies press for population controls

President Arroyo hopes to launch responsible parenthood programmes.

Manila (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Filipino President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo pledged to slow down the country's population growth which is running at an annual rate of 2.36 per cent. Her goal is to reduce it over the next few years but she is facing a stiff opposition from the Catholic Church.

Former Health Undersecretary Mario Taguiwalo is one of the promoters of population control programmes because in his words: "the high birth rate would perpetuate the vicious cycle of poverty in the Philippines".

For some time, several Filipino economic groups have lobbied in favour of family planning. They argue that population growth accentuates economic problems and favours unemployment.

Two of the Philippines' top business executives—Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala of the Ayala conglomerate, and Oscar Lopez of the Lopez Group of Companies—were among those who signed a letter to President Arroyo calling for population controls.

The President has proposed a programme of "responsible parenthood". She said that "the advice we give [to parents] is to space your children two or three years apart" but that "we must respect their cultural and religious beliefs".  Ms Arroyo said she was leaving it up to local government units to choose the appropriate family-planning methods.

A mother of three, the President won the presidency in 2001 with the help of the Catholic Church and has been careful to follow its doctrine that encourages only natural family-planning methods.

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