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Saturday, September 30, 2006

Demographers decry downplayed diaspora dynamic

by Jeremaiah M. Opiniano

MANILA—It’s not about fertility, but about people.
Demographers from the University of the Philippines said the country’s overall population policy, which is currently “too focused” on lessening population growth, should be changed to include the international migration of Filipinos.
“People are moving out, and people are the population. That’s very obvious,” said Nimfa Ogena, former director of the UP Population Institute.
Since population growth reduction remains to be the focus, Ogena observes Philippine population policy is “misconceived” to be wholly about fertility, and this puts occurrences such as the overseas exodus of Filipinos “into the background.”
“Unless we correct the misconception that population (policy) is about fertility, we can’t go anywhere,” she told the OFW Journalism Consortium.
In a paper about population and international migration, which Ogena wrote as early as 2003, she has maintained that fertility has been the anchor of Philippine population policy since the 1960s.
The clamor for population reform from demographers like Ogena came at a time when President Macapagal-Arroyo did not mention any population policy in her recent State-of-the-Nation Address.
Deputy executive director Mia Ventura of the Commission on Population confirmed the country’s current population policy is oriented” towards the family, towards regulating population growth, and towards reproductive health.”
However, the opportunity to include migration framework in the country’s population data has been lost as legislators failed to pass the 2006 national budget.
Without a budget, the National Statistics Office cancelled the conduct of the 2006 Census of Population and Housing.
Even preparatory activities by NSO, like the recruitment of data collectors and supervisors, cannot proceed, an August 4 statement by the agency said.
These delays, it added, could "compromise the quality of the data.”
The NSO is mandated by law to conduct a census every five or ten years. The last census it conducted was in 2000.
Despite this handicap, Ventura said PopCom will use quantitative and qualitative studies on Filipinos’ international migration, as well as the surveys of agencies such as NSO related to overseas migration by Filipinos, to discover the links between migration and demography.
Fertility, mortality, and migration (both international and internal) are the three population processes involved in demography, says the Philippine Center for Population and Development in its website (
These three processes should be part of Philippine population policy, Ogena said, citing its impact on a country’s population “outcomes” (age-sex structure, etc.) and development “outcomes” (employment, educational and health statuses, income distribution, etc.).
The National Statistical Coordination Board said last May it expects country’s population growth rate to slow down by 2010, when the country would have an estimated 94 million people, from an estimated 85.2 million (2005 NSO projection).
In this population growth projection, the NSCB considered international migration as “negligible,” saying international migration “has little effect on the national total population.”
With the lack of current data, the NSCB appears to play it safe, especially in linking, for example, international migration and fertility.
Even Cabigon cautions against linking the two, citing figures from the 2000 Census.
She pointed out that 800,051 households with overseas Filipino worker (OFW) dependents have larger average family sizes than the 14,478,757 households without OFW dependents.
Some of these OFW households have members coming from the extended family, and the Census might have counted them, Cabigon added.“What the data warrant us to do is to ask further questions,” Raymundo said.
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