A baby girl who was born at the Dr. Jose Fabella Hospital in Manila, Philippines in the wee hours of July 27 marked a milestone for the Southeast Asian country.
Baby Chonalyn Cabigayan, whose parents hailed from Sampaloc in Manila, symbolizes the birth of the 100 millionth Filipino and is one of the 100 babies born in state hospitals all over the country who were given the symbolic designation "100,000,000th baby."
The birth of these babies signified the entry of the Philippines as one of the few countries in the world that have a population of over 100 million. The country is the seventh most populous country in Asia and the 12th most populous country in the world.
Hitting the 100 million mark is both a cause for celebration and a challenge for the poverty-stricken Philippines. Although the Goldman Sachs and the HSBC have predicted that the economy of the country will become one of the biggest by 2050, Philippines continues to face poverty problems. The Philippine Statistics Authority estimates that as of April this year, unemployment in the country is 7 percent and a large proportion of the working force are underemployed. Many Filipinos also rely heavily on remittances from family members who work abroad to afford necessities such as housing and education.
In light of the country's growing population, the Philippine government said that it is renewing its commitment to fight poverty. Deputy Presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said that many of the government programs which include the universal healthcare and cash transfer programs are targeted for the poorest of the Filipinos.
"Even if the Philippine population is growing, what's important is that we must be able to tailor fit our programs to help the fifth quintile of the population to be able to get out of that demographic," Valte said in an interview with radio station dzRB.
Commission on Population Executive Director Juan Antonio Perez III said that the country needs to find a way to provide services to the poorest families and lower the average number of children that women bear.
"We'd like to push the fertility rate down to two children per (woman's) lifetime," Perez said.
The government's effort to control the country's ballooning population has been hampered by the influence of the Philippine Catholic Church which has expressed its disapproval for the use of artificial birth control methods such as birth control pills. About 80 percent of Filipinos are Catholics.