Pinoys, population, and the pandemic: POPCOM enjoined partners to still work with the agency toward the development of Filipino families amid Covid-19. (PNA photo)

With about 1.6 million Filipinos added annually to the country’s population in the last five years, the Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM) recently urged the government to implement far-reaching and holistic approaches to further strengthen population and development programs on the ground.

This was POPCOM’s call after the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) released on Wednesday the latest Census of Population, when the latter announced the country’s population in 2020 at 109,035,906, which includes the addition of 8,053,906 persons from 2015.

Weighing in on the country’s updated population figures, Undersecretary for Population and Development Juan Antonio Perez III, MD, MPH pointed to slower population growth as a result of lower fertility rate, as many Filipino women opt for smaller families.

POPCOM’s executive director however pointed out that there are some areas such as the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), Central Luzon and CALABARZON that continue to see significant increase in population.

Particularly, Perez cited the population numbers in the Bangsamoro Region, which grew to 4,404,208 from 2015 to 2020, and had the fastest annual population growth rate (PGR) at 3.16%. This translated to about 31 persons added per year for every 1,000 persons in the said area’s population.

In terms of absolute numbers, CALABARZON gained the most population, with an additional 1,780,268 persons from 2015.

On the other hand, Eastern Visayas posted the lowest PGR among all Philippine regions at 0.50%, with numerous municipalities—particularly in Northern Samar, Western Samar and South Leyte—which tallied negative PGRs. The Cordillera Administrative Region was at second, with a 0.91% PGR.

Interestingly, the National Capital Region posted the third-lowest PGR among regions at 0.97% from 2015 to 2020. Among its cities, Valenzuela had the highest PGR of 3.03%. A notable contrast was the negative PGR of Navotas, which was 0.16%.

The POPDEV undersecretary theorized that the country’s capital region, which in 2020 was hit hardest by the pandemic, grew at the slowest rate this century, compared to 1.78 and 1.58 in the 2010 and 2015 population censuses.

 The country’s PGR of 1.63% between 2015 and 2020 was lower compared with that of 2010 and 2015, which was 1.72%. The PSA report revealed the majority of the Philippine population resides in Luzon (57%), followed by Mindanao (24%), and the Visayas (19%).

“The steadily growing population implies the need for more resources and opportunities for  development to ensure the wellbeing of all Filipinos.  While it denotes increasing human resources that can contribute to socioeconomic development of the country, it also calls for actions from governments at all levels to intensify their initiatives to ensure that all Filipinos are healthy, educated, resilient and able to contribute to national development,” Perez explained. “The results of the 2020 Census further implies the continuing relevance of population and development programs that aim to put people at the center of development.”

While the growth in the population remains primarily driven by fertility or number of live births, albeit decreasing, the POPCOM chief also noted that since the census was conducted during the pandemic, the return migration of overseas Filipino workers to the country may also have contributed to the movement in the Philippines’ population count.

“Achieving the country’s demographic dividend—or the opportunity to optimize the increasing proportion of the working age population in the next few years, with its closing window—will entail much work, especially in the time of Covid-19. As the government’s lead agency in implementing the upcoming Philippine Population and Development Program or PPDP, POPCOM continues to seek their invaluable support to help us advance our population strategies in the attainment of more resilient communities, and an improved quality of life for every Filipino family,” Perez exhorted.

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