The Commission on Population and Development (CPD) has raised the alarm on the considerable rise in teen pregnancies, as it called on lawmakers to pass a law that would help address the problem.
Citing data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), CPD, also known as Popcom, noted that a total of 3,135 adolescent girls younger than 15 years old gave birth in 2022—a 35.13 percent increase from the 2,320 recorded in 2021.
“Although live births from adolescent girls, 14 years old and below, [are] just 0.22 percent of total live births recorded, CPD is still deeply concerned about the increase in adolescent pregnancy, especially among our very young girls,” CPD executive director Lisa Grace Bersales said in a statement on Monday.
Registered live births by adolescent mothers age 19 and below were already decreasing by an annual 8.61 percent from 2017 to 2021. But this trend changed in 2022—when live births in that group reached 150,138, up by 10.15 percent from 136,302 the previous year.
This means there were at least 411 children from teenage mothers every day in 2022.
According to PSA data, 95.1 percent babies from adolescent mothers under 15 were born out of wedlock.
Health authorities consider child-rearing among teen mothers “high risk,” because of complications during pregnancy that may lead to higher numbers of unhealthy, or worse, dead mothers and children.
“We cannot overemphasize the significance of having the bill enacted,” Bersales said of the proposed Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Act pending in Congress, adding that the measure “will be essential in addressing the lingering concern of early child-bearing and motherhood among a great number of our juvenile Filipino girls.”
In September last year, the House of Representatives approved on final reading its version of the proposed measure, House Bill No. 8910. Its counterpart measure, Senate Bill No. 1979, remains on second reading.
“I underscore Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez’s statement that this issue’s social cost and its negative impact on the national budget could run into billions of pesos—in terms of the government having to take care of young mothers and their babies; not to mention the human development aspect that we have to take into consideration,” Bersales said in her statement.
Citing surveys, Romualdez said the social problem of teen pregnancy worsened at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the public, including the youth, were advised to stay home to stave off the spread of the virus.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, one of the authors of HB 8910, estimated the economic cost of teen pregnancies at about P33 billion a year.
National action plan
He also cited a 2020 report by the United Nations Population Fund showing that the Philippines had one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in Southeast Asia.
The proposed law establishes the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Inter-Agency Council, composed of the CPD executive director as chair and the executive director of the Council for the Welfare of Children, an attached agency of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, as cochair.
The principal mandate of the proposed council is to formulate and implement a national action plan on the prevention of teen pregnancies. It shall also recommend relevant legislative and administrative measures.
The CPD noted that the enactment of the measure will be crucial to the Philippine Population and Development Plan of Action (PPD-POA) of 2023, which President Marcos approved last November.
“PPD-POA covers… the implementation and promotion of Comprehensive Sexuality Education in schools and communities, improved availability and access of adolescents to sexual and reproductive health and other social services, plus promoting and sustaining youth development and participation initiatives at the community level, with specific tactics to tackle adolescent pregnancies head-on at every level of society,” Bersales said.
But beyond the government’s plans, the CPD said the lasting solution to teen pregnancies begins at home.
“[W]e remind the parents and guardians of our youth that their roles in their respective families cannot be simply downplayed, as they are responsible in molding their children as productive members of the larger Philippine society,” Bersales said. INQ