Currently the 12th most populated country in the world with a population expected to reach more than 100 million in 2014, the Philippines has been regarded by the international community as Asia’s next economic miracle. IMF ranks the country’s economy as the 40th largest and is now heralded as among the emerging markets on the planet.
But that’s not how it feels like for majority of the Filipino people — more than a quarter of whom, or over 27 million, live below the poverty threshold based on the 2012 data from the National Statistical Coordination Board.
This number only represents those who make less than 17,000 pesos a year, the country’s poverty line. It has yet to take into consideration those who are barely making it, financially.
Nevertheless, although about half of the country’s population identify as financially disadvantaged, Filipinos are known for their ability to readily acclimate to different forms of survival patterns to endure natural or man-made crisis, including extreme poverty.
When needed, one in every two financially disadvantaged Filipino families say they are ready to change eating patterns; three out of 10 people increase working hours. And whenever possible, the Filipino family is also always ready to lend a hand with one-fifth of poor families reporting to have received assistance from friends or relatives at times of personal crisis.
Resilience aside, however, studies have also shown that the more financially disadvantaged Filipinos have bigger families than those with better fiscal foundation. The family size of impoverished Filipinos is bigger at an average of six per household than their affluent counterparts’ 4.9.
The United Nations Population Fund blames this on the limited access of impoverished people to the government's family planning programs. Despite the Philippines government’s intensified campaign on family planning, the country continues to document small percentage of families with access to its population control program. There is a difference of at least 81 percent between the highest 60 percent and lowest 40 percent income brackets in terms of access to family planning services and in terms of practicing it.
Only about 10 percent of families in the lowest income group have couples practicing family planning. Almost six out of 10 Filipino families had access to family planning services but only three out of 10 families had couples use contraception. Of the families with access to family planning services, only 21 percent are in the lowest 40 percent income stratum.
Government statistics also disclosed that only 16.3 percent families from the lowest income bracket visit health facilities compared with the higher income group’s 30.1 percent. These percentages become more disturbing when translated into actual statistics: the severely impoverished group is composed of about 27 million Filipinos and less than 9 million make up the highest 60 percent income bracket.
Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago in an interview with BBC's Our World said 11 mothers die everyday in the Philippines from pregnancy and childbirth complications because they didn't know enough about reproductive health or have no access to family planning methods,
Journalist Cher Jimenez Cayabyab said the number could be bigger because the last national demographic survey was done years ago and that it didn't include the half-a-million women who go for abortion every year because of unwanted pregnancy. “That should not be the case if only family planning methods are made available and that couples are informed and empowered to plan their family.”