Baby Jennalyn becomes 100,000,000th Philippine citizen (and sleeps through celebrations)
Philippines celebrates population milestone with wary eye on the future
Agence France-Presse in Manila
A baby girl born early yesterday has officially pushed the population of the Philippines to 100 million, highlighting the challenge of providing for more people in the already-impoverished nation.
The child, Jennalyn Sentino, was one of 100 babies born in state hospitals all over the archipelago who received the symbolic designation "100,000,000th baby".
"This is both an opportunity and a challenge. An opportunity we should take advantage of and a challenge we recognise," said Juan Antonio Perez, executive director of the official Commission on Population.
Watch: Philippines welcomes 100 millionth baby
While a growing population meant a larger workforce, it also meant more dependents in a country where one in four lived in poverty, he said.
He said the Philippines had to find a way to bring services to the poorest families while also lowering the average number of children that fertile women would bear in their lifetimes.
"We'd like to push the fertility rate down to two children" in a lifetime from the current level of an average of three per woman, he said.
While celebrating the birth of the babies, the government would also monitor each of the designated 100 children over the coming years to see if they were receiving the required health services, Perez added.
Jennalyn's father, 45-year-old van driver Clemente Sentino, said he was grateful for the government aid, but expressed confidence he could support his child and his partner.
Efforts to control the Philippines' population growth have long been hampered by the influence of the Catholic Church, which counts about 80 per cent of Filipinos as followers and which disapproves of all forms of artificial birth control.
It was only in April that the government finally overcame more than a decade of church opposition to implement a reproductive health law that provides the poor with birth control services.
Perez said that the law's implementation gave access to family planning to an additional two to three million women.
Meanwhile, Father Melvin Castro, head of the commission on family and life of the country's Catholic bishops, was quoted by a church-run radio station as praising the ballooning population, saying there would be more "young workers" to power the economy.