MANILA - Senate Committee on Basic Education chair Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian on Wednesday urged local government units to implement sex education courses in communities to avoid an expected rise in teenage pregnancies during the coronavirus pandemic.
"Enhancing comprehensive sexuality education" for students can "counter this spike in adolescent pregnancies," Gatchalian said in a statement.
"Matagal nang hamon sa atin pigilan ang pagdami ng kaso ng maagang pagbubuntis ngunit dahil sa COVID-19, nanganganib na mas dumami pa ang mga kabataang kababaihan na maging batang ina at huminto sa pag-aaral," he said.
(It has long been a challenge for us to curb the increase in cases of early pregnancy but because of COVID-19, there is a risk that the number of girls who will become teen moms and stop schooling will increase.)
"Ngayon natin dapat mas patatagin ang mga programa laban sa maagang pagbubuntis upang hindi mapagkaitan ang ating mga kabataan ng magandang kinabukasan," he said.
(This is the time to strengthen programs against early pregnancy so we won't deprive our youth of a bright future.)
Studies show a "spike in unplanned pregnancies among the youth usually happen during calamities" due to the "lack of access to school, information, and sexual and reproductive health care," Gatchalian said, citing information from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
A study from the Department of Science and Technology-National Research Council of the Philippines (DOST-NRCP) showed that 23.5 percent of teenage girls in Eastern Visayas had a child shortly after Typhoon Yolanda in 2013, while 14.8 percent got pregnant again the following year, he said.
A 65-percent rise in teenage pregnancies was also observed in Sierra Leone during the Ebola outbreak in 2014 and 2015, he said.
"Local governments should strengthen awareness campaigns against adolescent pregnancies in communities to avoid having more female students forced out of school due to early childbirth," the senator's statement read.
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the Philippines has already considered teenage pregnancy as a "national emergency," as nearly 200,000 adolescents get pregnant annually.
Teenage pregnancy rate in the country declined to 8.7 percent in 2017 from 10.2 percent in 2016, but some 196,000 Filipinos between the ages of 15 and 19 years old get pregnant each year, data from the Commission on Population (POPCOM) showed.
The Philippines loses about P33 billion annually due to teenage pregnancies, a 2017 United Nations estimate showed.