President Duterte said it was difficult to implement physical distancing in the Philippines because of the country’s dense urban population, that may be attributed, in turn, to the Church’s opposition to the use of contraceptives and the lack of alternative family planning programs.
Duterte made the statement as the Philippines continues to grapple with the effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, especially with the rising cases in different parts of the country due to the more contagious variants of the disease.
In a speech in Sibulan, Negros Oriental, the President said the government really cannot force the people to observe physical distancing measures because the country, especially the urban areas, is already crammed.
“It is impossible,” he said on Thursday, March 11.
“Just as there are too many people in the urban areas than in the rural areas, and second, which is the really farthest of reason, is that we have not been able to implement the family planning programming,” he added.
The President said people cannot freely move around because there are people almost everywhere.
“Miski sabihin mo social distancing, paglabas pa lang ng tao sa bahay niya hirap na siya (Even if we keep on reminding them about physical distancing, the moment he steps out of the house, it will be difficult for him),” he said.
“He can hardly have the space to move around,” he added.
According to Duterte, he is not fond of fighting the Church but said the religious institution is the reason why the government cannot implement an effective family planning program.
“One of the irritants sa amin (for us), really, was the dynamics of the family planning. Lalagyan mo ng mga (We will give away) contraceptives… Eh, ayaw ng simbahan, eh. Kaya collision course talaga (But the Church is against it so it was really a collision course),” he said.
“One word led to another. Sabi ko (I told them), ‘If you cannot honor the separation of State and Church, then we will not really be able to understand each other,” he added.
President Duterte raised concerns about the speedy growth of the Philippine population, saying the next administration has to do something about it. The country’s population was measured at 109.8 million in 2020.
The Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM) estimated that the Philippine population will reach 110.8 million in 2021.
“We are the second-fastest sa (in terms of) increase in population. We are now 110 million and I really hope we can do something about this in the future. Sabagay wala na ako (But I will not be around anymore),” he said.
“I will be freed of that worry. But, you know, we’ll pass it to the next generation, sobra talaga (there are really many people here). It’s high time that we review one,” he added.
Meanwhile, Duterte asked government officials to find something else to do if they do not agree with the government’s family planning initiatives.
“I insist that itong mga sa gobyerno (that the government people), they must follow the government regulations. If your religion does not allow you to participate in the program, then get out and find another space there in your office,” he said.
President Duterte has been a passionate advocate of family planning. In 2019, he said the Catholic Church’s opposition to alternative family planning methods is the reason for the surge in the country’s population.
He added that the high population growth rate of the country makes the Philippines appear as a baby factory.