(April 2006) With one of the highest population growth rates in Southeast Asia, the Philippines is experiencing increasing human pressure on its natural resources, including forests, coasts, and safe water supplies. And the decline of this natural resource base is threatening the health and well-being of Filipinos in every region—urban and rural areas alike.

A new Population Reference Bureau datasheet—Making the Link in the Philippines—provides national, regional, and provincial data for 15 indicators that highlight the connections among population trends, natural resource use, and the health and well-being of Filipinos.

“These issues are all intrinsically linked,” says Roger-Mark De Souza, technical director of PRB’s Population, Health and Environment Program. “You can’t alleviate poverty if large disadvantaged populations don’t have basic services such as health care and safe drinking water.”

Examples of these linkages abound in the Making the Link in the Philippines datasheet, which includes indicators such as population growth rate, infant mortality rate, access to safe water sources, forest cover, and incidence of poor families. Highlights include:

  • Almost one-half of the population of the Philippines now lives in urban areas. And addressing urban issues—such as the management of waste, water and air quality, and access to adequate housing—has become a significant challenge. In the National Capital Region (NCR), the most highly urbanized region in the country, 16 percent of families lack access to safe water sources.
  • Fertility rates remain above the regional average. The Philippines’ total fertility rate (lifetime births per woman) is currently 3.5, higher than most of the country’s Southeast Asian neighbors. This high rate is due in part to an unmet need for family planning: Approximately 17 percent of the country’s married women either would like to wait before having more children or would prefer to have no more children, but aren’t using traditional or modern methods of family planning.
  • Human vulnerability to natural disasters is growing. Increasing population density and environmental degradation are accelerating vulnerability to disasters in the Philippines, as settlements encroach into disaster-prone areas. Nearly 90 percent of the country’s mangroves have been cleared, eliminating natural barriers to coastal storms and flooding. Likewise, the dramatic reduction in forest cover (only about 7 percent of the Philippines’ original lowland forest cover remains, though reforestation efforts have increased forest cover in some provinces) contributes to the severity of flash floods and mudslides.