Planning for our 111-M population in 2021

At the start of the year 2020, the Philippine population stood at 109.4 million, according to the Commission on Population and Development (Popcom). Today, a year later, the national population should be about 110.8 million – an increase of 1.4 million in the normal course of events, Popcom Executive Director Juan Antonio Perez III said in a recent press conference and interview.

This has not been a normal year, however. Starting last March, restrictions of various levels in the movement of people began in various areas of the country, starting with an Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) in Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon.

This highest level of restriction required nearly everyone to stay home, to keep from getting and spreading the COVID-19 virus. Businesses and offices were shut down, along with public transportation. The resulting slowdown in economic activity resulted in a national recession, from which we now seek to recover.

The Popcom’s concern focused on the lockdown’s effects on the nation’s population program. Many women could no longer go to health centers to get their family planning supplies. The Popcom estimates that some 250,000 babies were thus conceived during the quarantines all over the country and will be born this year. This figure should now be added to the projected normal increase of 110.8 million for this year 2021 – for a total of 111,050,000.

The government’s population program seeks to maintain a proper balance between the nation’s population and its economic and other resources which are limited. There has long been unrestricted internal migration in the country, leading to congestion in urban areas like Metro Manila.

This urban congestion has impacted on government services such as education, transportation, housing, health and sanitation, and peace and order. There simply have not been sufficient livelihood for so many people flocking to the cities, seeking a better life.

The problem has been quantified by the Population Commission. There are now 1.4 million more people in the Philippines, many of them in urban areas like Metro Manila where livelihood opportunities are naturally limited.

In its planning for the national government, provisions must be made for this growing national population. On top of it all are the new problems brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic – closing down of businesses and thus loss of livelihood for so many, return of thousands of Overseas Filipino Workers from countries similarly downed by COVID-19.

Truly, this will be a very difficult and challenging year for the Philippine government and the Filipino people.