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fThe Philippines is like the 'Titanic'-Lopez patriarch says population growth can sink the country
Comparing the Philippines to the Titanic, Lopez Group chairman Oscar M. Lopez yesterday said the Philippines must address the complex problems brought about by a burgeoning population if it is to play catch-up in the Asia Pacific economic race.


Speaking at the Asia Forum on Corporate Social Responsibility, Lopez said continued population growth may further slow down economic growth.

Lopez decried what he called a "conspiracy of silence" on the population issue in the Philippines. "There is no public discussion or debate about this issue. There is no outcry that unless we reverse our course the country could be headed towards a demographic disaster."

"I feel like I am on the Titanic right now. I just do not know how far w are from that fateful iceberg that will crush and sink our ship," said Lopez.

While the Philippines has decreased population growth in recent years, the decrease has not been as significant as those in other countries. As a result, the country doubled its population from 36.5 million in 1970 to 75.6 million in 2000. If the Philippines cannot reduce its population growth rate of 2.36%, there will be an estimated 150 million Filipinos in 20 years time.

"Where are we going to put all those additional millions? We are all going to be on top of one another and on top of trees?assuming there will still be trees at that time. This is no longer just a religious problem. It will be a problem of physical survival," Lopez said.

Total fertility rate (TFR) declined slightly from 4.1 to 3.7 children between 1991-96 and was expected to go down further to 3.2 in 2002. However, this figure of 3.2 is still much higher than those of other countries, such as Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia, who are all now in the category of replacement fertility of 2.2 children per woman.

Lopez also called on the business community to work more vigorously with government and civil society in addressing society's ills. He said the social problems faced by Asian countries are "tremendous, daunting and, for the faint-hearted, possibly threatening and demoralizing."

"Major social problems are not normally pliable to the market mechanism. This means that social ills cannot be solved mainly by commercial demand and supply. Social programs cannot be supported by only governments and the market mechanism," said Lopez. 

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