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PIA Press Release

Atienza pooh-poohs line in population critics

By Danny O. Sagun

Lingayen, Pangasinan (6 August) -- Poverty is not synonymous to the number of children in a family. Such claim did not come from a priest nor a government economist but from the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources, Joselito "Lito" Atienza.

Atienza told the Region 1 "People's Hour" which he launched at the Pangasinan State University convention hall last Friday that he was speaking from experience. With hard work, he was able to raise his eight children, he said.

"Huwag maniwala sa sinasabi nila na sobra-sobra na ang bilang ng Filipino… di totoo yon, mali po yon," he told the audience most of whom came to voice out their problems on land ownership.

An ally of President Macapagal-Arroyo, he was expected to defend the President, who pitches for the natural family planning method being advocated by he Catholic Church.Atienza said a couple cannot just determine the number of their children, citing again his experience: he and his wife wanted 12 but they only got eight, "Wala sa ating kapangyarihan kung ilan ang ating magiging anak," he said sounding the usual refrain among people in the past or those from rural areas.

"Walang senador, congressman o mayor na magsabi sa inyong mag-1 lang ang magiging anak niyo. Huwag niyo silang paniwalaan," he stressed.

He said that hard work and perseverance are the keys for a family to achieve a better life adding that the country is blessed with rich natural resources so that it is not really difficult for Filipinos to attain prosperity.

His statements contradicted claims that the burgeoning population is one reason why the country has lagged behind its neighbors with a high incidence of poverty.Bills on reproductive health giving couples free choices are pending in Congress. The President however favored natural family planning.

Atienza also vouched for the President's performance in his speech saying no other president has done better than her administration in terms of infrastructure facilities like roads, bridges, ports and many other projects.He launched the regional version of his "People's Hour" in Manila for him to meet face-to-face with rural residents, mostly poor people and small businessmen from far-flung areas, for their concerns like land ownership disputes, mining claims, and others.

He noted that many who tried to grace his weekly (every Thursday, 10am to 12 noon) People's Hour at his office in Manila return home frustrated because they accomplished nothing despite all their efforts and several attempts to see him, spending hard-earned money. Some came from far-flung areas like Mindanao.

One concern brought to him at the PSU hall was a land ownership dispute pending for 30 years. He directed his regional chief to solve the case as soon as possible.

Atienza brought his undersecretaries and legal officers to the venue to help him resolve the issues.He expects to visit all other regional centers for a similar activity. (PIA-Pangasinan) [top]

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