MANILA - At least 40 children aged between 10 and 14-years-old give birth in the Philippines every week, an official from the Population Commission (POPCOM) said, Thursday.
Of the 62,000 minors who gave birth in the country in 2018, 2,200 girls were below 15-years-old, POPCOM executive director Undersecretary Juan Antonio Perez III said during a budget hearing in the Senate.
"It's the one figure that has been increasing," Perez told senators.
Despite the enactment of the Reproductive Health Law, "we have seen an increase of teenagers giving birth" in the country, he said.
"Many of the pregnancies between 10 and 17-year-olds, their partners are older than them so there is an element of power play and exploitation here," he said.
Children who became mothers at a young age may end up living in poverty as workers who do not have college degrees usually earn only a quarter of what they can get if they have diplomas, the POPCOM official said.
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri urged the chamber to craft a law that would raise the age of statutory rape in the Philippines to 16-years-old.
Children aged 12 and below are the only ones covered under the current law.
"Sigurado akong mababawasan ang mga teenage pregnancy natin kung maitataas natin ang statutory rape age," Zubiri said in a statement.
"Naniniwala ako na maraming sexual abuses and violence ang nagaganap sa mga batang 12 hanggang 16 taong gulang pero hindi maparusahan ang maysala kasi sinasabi ng maysala na pumayag ang bata, kahit sa totoo ay sapilitan ang naganap," he said.
The 2016 National Baseline Study on Violence Against Children (NBS-VAC) found that 1 in every 5 minors experience sexual violence, the Senate Majority Leader said.
"By raising the age to 16 years, I hope that we could put a dent on the number of children victimized," he said.
"Proteksyon natin ito para sa kabataang Pilipino," he said.
Earlier this week, the Senate tackled a measure that seeks to address teenage pregnancy in the Philippines.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III asked other senators to revisit the proposal, saying a better implementation of existing laws may be needed instead of crafting new policies against adolescent pregnancies.