Even after the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill was enacted in 2012, more young Filipinos have been getting pregnant. The problem of teen pregnancies has alarmed the country’s Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM) so much that the government agency urged President Rodrigo Duterte yesterday to declare a "National Emergency on Early Pregnancy."
According to POPCOM, about 1.2 million teens had children over a 10-year period. Even more alarming is that around 30,000 of these young mothers get pregnant again.
Based on a survey conducted by the Philippine Statistics Authority, the number of mothers aged 10 to 19 reached 196,478 in 2017. In addition, one in every 10 young women between the ages of 15 and 19 are pregnant.
This is not just a matter of overpopulation, but a real threat to these young mothers’ futures.
Studies show that early pregnancy pushes girls and young women to drop out of school, lessening the chances of poor adolescent-led families to escape poverty.
POPCOM said that while the highest levels of pre-marital sex are recorded in Metro Manila, girls in rural areas are getting pregnant slightly earlier than those living in urban ones.
“This issue affects the very essence of the country’s development because the state of young people today will affect the state of our collective future,” said POPCOM Executive Director Juan Antonio Perez.
“Teenage pregnancy causes PHP33 billion ($647 million) in economic losses, and curbing it would lead to national development.”
POPCOM asked for PHP10 billion (approx. $196 million) in funding from the government to support programs aimed at addressing adolescent pregnancies, such as family planning and birth control.
The RH Law is meant to make contraceptives and family planning more accessible to Filipinos but it is not implemented properly nationwide, with many still clinging on to conservative Christian views on sex. According to a report by Rappler, 150,000 adolescent-led families still lack the support they need.
While some local government units extend some forms of support for adolescent parents, there is still no organised system for teen mothers.
“Most of our laws are already there, but we fail at implementation. It is a matter of political will,” said Perez.
POPCOM and the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) recommended comprehensive sex education in school to address the problem.
In response to the call for a national emergency, women's rights and youth advocates, in partnership with POPCOM, launched the "No More Children Having Children" campaign.
"When a young person gives birth in a hospital setting, they should be given information and service, because that will cut the number of early pregnancies," Perez said.
Conversion rate: PHP1 = $0.02
Correction: This story originally said that 1.2 million children are having children every year. This number is actually the total over a 10-year period. We regret the error.