Monday, April 21, 2008

Population: Consumer and Food Producer

Do we have rice crisis or price crisis or both? What is the real situation? There seems to be at the same time some problem of accountability, transparency and credibility! NFA rice is at 18 pesos while commercial rice is at almost 40 pesos. A big problem for the poor! And the Philippines, once upon a time a rice granary in Asia, is now the top importer of rice.

Who is to blame for this crisis? What is the solution to this problem? One answer we are hearing these days is: blame the crisis on our growing population; and therefore there is need for a program of population control.

It is both an economic and moral problem. I would like to quote the answer of a young city councilor from Olongapo under the Kapatiran Party, John Carlos de los Reyes. What he courageously and insightfully said can be applied to the problem of rice and food sufficiency. John Carlos de los Reyes in a convention on the Family held in Cebu said: “The root social problem of our nation is not over-population but massive, enslaving poverty. Philippine poverty cannot be the result of a growing population, but rather the outcome of corruption in both government and business sector … We are poor not because we are many, but because a few wittingly or unwittingly deprive our kababayans of opportunities to prosper …”

Graft and corruption, not population growth is the major cause of our crisis. Already as of December 2004, the National Statistics Office had projected a population growth rate of 1.99% and not 2.36% as being insisted upon. In fact, the country is already experiencing a decline in the number of births. Population is expanding, but the expansion is not caused by “uncontrolled births” but rather by the elderly population being more healthy and living longer than before. Improved health situation results also in higher survival rates of new born.

To the question how we can solve the disproportion between increasing population and decreasing food supply, the fallacious answer is cut down the population. However, Pope John XXIII in his Encyclical Letter, Mater et Magistra (no. 189) had proposed the empowerment and education of the same population to solve the problem of decreasing food supply: “The real solution is to be found in a renewed scientific and technical effort on man’s part to deepen and extend his dominion over the earth.” … so as to produce sufficient food. Babies therefore are presently consumers, but they are also future food producers. Babies are not liabilities only but are future assets to replace the present generation and to support our senior citizens.

Is the Catholic Church against population control? No. Rather the Church continues to advocate natural family planning as the morally acceptable way of practicing responsible parenthood. But the Church objects to the use of artificial contraception, such as the use of abortifacients, contraceptive devises, abortion and sterilization. Artificial contraception is wrong not because the Catholic Church forbids them; rather the Church forbids them because they are morally wrong: they violate the creative power of God and destroy the natural fruitfulness of human reproductive capacity.

Pope Benedict XVI, when as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger he was President of the Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith had said: “God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can, in any circumstance, claim for himself the right to destroy directly an innocent human being. Human procreation requires on the part of spouses responsible collaboration with the fruitful love of God” His predecessor, Pope John Paul II in Evangelium Vitae had condemned abortion, euthanasia and genocide as supreme dishonor to the Creator of life.

To conclude: in the present rice crisis or price crisis of food supply, we must look at population not as the root cause of the problem. The social doctrine of the Church challenges society and government to regard population not as mere consumer but also to help and facilitate their becoming producers and formal businessmen. By completely eradicating corruption and restoring justice our government can empower population to keep the continuous flow of production and supply.

April 21, 2008