If there's one thing that struck me deep with the Ondoy experience is the thought that there are simply too many Filipinos. We're hitting 98 million, and will reach the 100 million mark in less than two years. That's more mouths to feed and more bodies to shelter. How can our 300,000 square-kilometer country possibly handle the stress?
According to the CIA website, our birth rate is approximately 26 births per thousand people. Our death rate is approximately 5 deaths per thousand. Doing simple math, we're piling up about two million new Filipinos a year. Two million is more or less the population of Taguig, Las Pinas, Paranaque and Mandaluyong combined.
The average age of the Philippine population is 22 years old. This means most of our population is either still in college, trying to find jobs, or starting out in their careers. If they can't find jobs, they'll be among the seven million who are unemployed. (Seven million is over half the population of Metro Manila.)
Plus, when these people are able to afford homes, where will these homes be?
During the week after the flooding, a man on the radio made a comment about the tragedy that beset Provident Village in Marikina City. The man said that maybe the river was reclaiming what was rightfully hers. Another friend said that Eastwood City, which wasn't spared by the rising waters, should not have been built there in the first place. And what about those subdivisions buried by landslides?
More people translates to more trash and more land use. If we don't curb population growth, reduce waste, and free up the land that Nature requires for her to breathe, we should expect to see more nature-related tragedies. Nature has been good to us, but we've taken her kindness for granted and are paying for it.
The simple solution is to reduce our population growth rate to a negative. Right now we stand at approximately 1.96%. (Countries like Japan, Russia, Germany and Italy have negative growth rates.) Reducing our population growth rate will be a tremendous undertaking, but we don't have much of a choice.
I had imagined a child asking her parents, "If you're having a hard time taking care of me, why did you make me?"