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July 28, 2017

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Philippines welcomes nation's 100 millionth baby

MANILA -- A baby girl born early Sunday 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 of "100,000,000th baby."

"This is both an opportunity and a challenge ... an opportunity we should take advantage of and a challenge we recognize," Juan Antonio Perez, executive director of the official Commission on Population, told AFP.

While a growing population means a larger workforce, it also means more dependents in a country where about 25 percent of people are living 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 will bear in their lifetimes.

"We'd like to push the fertility rate down to two children per (woman's) lifetime," from the current level of an average of three per woman, he said.

While celebrating the birth of the babies with cake and gifts of clothing and blankets, the government will also monitor each of the designated 100 children over the coming years to see if they are 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.

He and the child's mother, Dailin Cabigayan, 27, are not yet married. "She just happened to get pregnant. But we do have plans to get married," he told AFP.

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