Are Filipinos getting shorter?

CEBU CITY – This was the question that the founder of a national political party wanted answered as he tried to find an explanation why there are moves to reduce the height requirement for new recruits in the Philippine National Police (PNP), Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), and Bureau of Corrections (BuCOR).

Buklod, a national political party is alarmed on the recent announcement of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to reduce the height requirements for new recruits to 5’2” (157.48 cm) from 5’4” (162.56 cm) for men and to 5’0” (152.4 cm) from 5’2” (157.48 cm for women.

Buklod chaiman and founder Benjamin Punongbayan said that this could obviously mean the police and the military do not have enough recruits due to the previous taller height requirements, or this could also mean that health programs being pursued by the government has remained ineffective and could even cause stunted growth among Filipinos.

The Senate approved on Monday, September 7, Senate Bill No. 1563, which aims to amend the PNP charter that set the minimum height requirement for male recruits at 5-foot-4 (162.56 cm), and female recruits at 5-foot-2 for women (157.48 cm).

Under the proposal, the height requirement will be reduced to 5’2” (157.48 cm) for men, and 5’0” (152.4 cm) for women.

Punongbayan pointed out that this issue reflects a retrogression, and was contrary to the global trend of height increasing over time. 

He noted that height was strongly correlated to nutrition, and he cited surveys of weight and height of Filipinos done by the Food, Nutrition and Research Institute (FNRI) in 2003 and by the Food and Research Institute Unit (FRIU) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) in 2013.

In 2003, the average height of Filipinos aged 20 to 39, the tallest of the age groups was at 163.49 centimeters or 5’4.4” for men and 151.76 centimeters or 4’11.7” for women, Punongbayan said.

 In 2013, the average height for all adults aged 20 years and older, not segmented further as in the 2003 survey, was 5’4.2” for men and 4’11.6” for women.    He added that while the statistics for both years were not completely presented in the same way, the difference was not significant.

“This comparison clearly shows that the height of adult Filipinos has not increased over a period of 10 years, from 2003 to 2013,” Punongbayan noted.

He went on that it was likely that there was also no improvement up to 2020, judging by the said decision made very recently by the police and the military.   Obviously, Filipinos on the average are not improving their nutrition, Punongbayan said.

“This observation does not speak well of the effectiveness of any national health programs that the government is pursuing today,” Punongbayan said.

He added that many people have also noted that the very young Filipinos were not developing normally, and were likely to have stunted biological development.

This was much worse, because these very young Filipinos were likely to grow mentally challenged.  They may become more of a liability to society rather than an asset who can help in the national development efforts,” Punongbayan stated.

He went on that in 2013, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) identified the Philippines as the ninth country in the world with the greatest number of stunted children.

The 2020 Global Nutrition Report (GNR) reports on country-level progress towards eight of the 10 global nutrition target: anemia, low birth weight, exclusive breastfeeding, childhood stunting, childhood wasting, childhood overweight including obesity, adult obesity men and women and adult diabetes men and women showed that the Philippines and 87 other countries do not have any indicator for meeting any of these targets, Punongbayan said.

He believed that it was high time that the government should evaluate critically the allocation of its scarce resources and provide more funds for human development, including health and nutrition.

“This national undertaking must be given urgency,” he said.

Buklod is a group of well-meaning Filipinos, without any previous Government involvement, who have banded themselves together to form a cohesive and well-disciplined political movement and party, and try to gain political power under existing rules.

Its highest priority is to provide direct state intervention in the eradication of poverty in which millions of Filipinos continue to be deeply mired.