MANILA (UPDATED) - Adolescent pregnancies in the country have fallen by 13 percent at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the lowest since 2003, the Commission on Population and Development (Popcom) said.
Popcom welcomed the development, and said teen pregnancies during 2020 were down by 23,855 "a 17-year record for the sharpest decrease in births in women under 20 years of age."
The commission, in a statement, said those who got pregnant between ages 15 and 19 were 23,557 fewer in 2020, contributing the majority or 98.7 percent of the decline.
Those who get pregnant from 10 to 15 years old, meanwhile, were 298 or 12 percent lower, Popcom added. The individuals in the age bracket are considered very young adolescents (VYA), according to the commission.
Popcom Executive Director Juan Antonio Perez said the "drastic" decline could be attributed to the strict COVID-19 lockdowns and closure of schools in 2020.
This was observed especially in December 2020, he added.
“The decline noted throughout the year serves as evidence that things are slowly changing for the better for our young women," Perez said.
“This is good news for us and our partners who have been advocating for a reduction in teen pregnancies, as well as the health, population and social workers in local government units (LGUs) who stepped up their services in adolescent health to achieve this result,” he added.
The commission said it would continue addressing the problems in teen pregnancies, as an estimated 160,000 led by teen mothers are requiring social protection this year.
"Despite the decrease in teen births, Popcom continues to work to address the cumulative effects of high adolescent birth rates with the Department of Social Welfare and Development, as well as LGUs... the numbers might rise anew once pandemic concerns recede," it explained.
Popcom also cited the Philippine Statistics Authority's statement that adolescent birth rates were just at 31 per 1,000 in 2020, lower than 47 per 1,000 in 2017.
The country, it noted, aims a rate of 37 per 1,000.
President Rodrigo Duterte has made teen pregnancies a national priority, based on a document that Malacañang released in June last year.
The government recognizes that discrimination, norms that normalize violence against women and children, lack of education, and the vulnerability of women and children living in remote and rural areas all contribute to the rising number of teen pregnancies, said Duterte.
Population growth in the Philippines is projected to have slowed down to just 0.3 per cent in 2021, the slowest in over 70 years, as Filipinos delayed having children amid the pandemic, Popcom earlier said.
Popcom added that the country's population growth was only at around 324,000 last year, the lowest since the period between 1946 and 1947, when the country's population grew by only 254,000.
- With a report from the South China Morning Post