WITH Bicol’s total population reaching 5.79M in 2015, from 5.42M in 2010, and 4.62M in 2000, is there a population explosion threatening our region and yet nobody cares?
According to official census records, our regional population growth had been rising at the rate of 1.46% every year from 2000 to 2010 and slowed down a bit to 1.29% in 2010-2015. This means Bicol’s population growth rate somehow tapered during the last 15 years and may still go down in the coming years. Was it because of the government’s effective population control program? Or was it because of the pressures of the rat race where the breadwinner has to keep his home small to have lesser mouth to feed and spend more time making money to pay bills and provide for other basic needs?
But still, the Philippines has the largest population viz-a-viz its land area compared to other ASEAN neighbors. We have 101.6 million people in 300,000 sq. kilometers of our land area, while Thailand with its bigger land area of 513,120 sq. km has a smaller population of only 69 million as of the latest census. Vietnam, with its slightly bigger territory of 330,951 sq. km has only 91.7 million people.
What is population explosion? The term means the rapid increase in population that outstrips the growth of national income and retards the per capita income. It hampers savings and investments. Thus, economy remains in the grip of vicious cycle of poverty. The consumption and nutrition standard of the population are low as they suffer from poor health and low productivity.
Now, there is the so-called in-migration by people in the same region to the cities where there are more opportunities for livelihood, better income, and the various conveniences needed to raise a decent family. This situation is highly evident in Naga and Legazpi areas that exhibit relatively higher economic growth.
Naga City, specifically, has been seeing its population growing in rapid speed. From only about 80,000 residents in the 1980s, the city’s population as of the 2015 census more than doubled to 174,931 despite its small land area of 84,48 sq. km. compared to Legazpi City’s population of 182,201 within the much larger area of 153.70 sq. km. Not surprisingly, Naga’s population density is 2,070.68 persons/sq. km. compared to Legazpi’s smaller 1,185.43 persons/sq. km. Population density is the number of people living per unit of an area (e.g. per sq. km.), or the number of people relative to the space actually occupied by them. These undeniable facts (census data) are evidenced by the more number of subdivisions (over 68) in Naga compared to the other urban centers in Bicol – as well as the number of banks, private cars congesting the streets and parking spaces, and business enterprises, among other socio-economic indicators.
A projection by the national statistics office show that by 2021, Legazpi City, despite its bigger area, will be taken over by Naga in terms of population where the latter would have 230,244 souls while the former would have 224,534. And did you know that out of the ten most populous barangays in Bicol (2015 census), five are from Naga City? Bicol’s top three barangays are Concepcion Pequena (pop: 23,577), San Felipe (pop: 17,444) and Cararayan (pop: 15,998), all in Naga City. The fourth is Bgy. Bibingkahan of Sorsogon City (pop: 15,738) while Legazpi City’s Bgy 56-Taysan (pop: 12,330) only ranked 6th. Pili’s Bgy. San Jose in Camarines Sur is ranked even a notch higher at 5th with its population of 12,599. The other Naga barangays in top ten are Pacol (8th) and Calauag (9th).
A well-known economist looks at our growing population, especially with more young people comprising our manpower resource, as advantageous to the economy. He cited the 10 million or more Filipinos who are earning dollars as OFWs that help fuel our local economy. He also hailed the young graduates working in BPOs and other IT-oriented industries as source of our economic power catering to a global market. This economist laments at Japan and other similar countries with more ageing population. He said these countries may soon fall because there will be fewer young men and women who will be there to sustain their economic strength and stability, and of course those who will take good care of their fading senior citizens. The Filipino engineers, doctors and nurses, teachers and care-givers – we all have them in great abundance ready to be deployed anywhere around the globe.