Popcom, experts press for strong programs vs teenage pregnancy in Philippines

Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 17 2021 09:43 PM

"Jessy" 16, cares for her infant baby inside their home in a permanent housing tenement in Bgy. Smokey Mountain, Tondo Manila, May 9, 2018. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA — Teenage pregnancy cases in the Philippines will continue to balloon and create an imbalance in the society unless both the national and local governments do their share in addressing this issue, the Commission on Population and Development (Popcom) said Wednesday.

Popcom’s executive director, Juan Antonio Perez III, said in a virtual press conference that its commissioned survey from the Social Weather Stations last November underlined women’s serious concern on teen and unwanted pregnancies, as well as physical violence.

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Perez cited the continuing rise in the number of children or minors suddenly becoming parents due to unplanned pregnancies.

Data sourced from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) in the last 6 years, with Popcom’s projection, showed that as of early 2021 alone, there are already at least 70,755 families being led by minors.

The study pointed out that failure to combat teenage pregnancy through social protection of child-mothers would increase the number of minors raising a family to 133,265 at the end of the year.
 
“Tayo’y kasama sa Millennium Development Program ng United Nations. At ang ating slogan doon, Leave No One Behind. Lumalabas sa pag-aaral na ito, itong mga kabataan na nagsisimula ng pamilya habang menor de edad, sila ang malamang na maiiwan sa pag-unlad ng bayan,” Perez said.

(We are part of the Millennium Development Program, which carried the slogan, Leave No One Behind. This study showed that these minors already with families could be left behind as society progresses.)

The economic loss equivalent of this group in terms of what they could earn if they were not young parents, meanwhile, could be up to P33 billion, according to Perez.

Early in February, the commission said that this is the 9th year the rate of early pregnancies has increased since 2011, noting that one out of every 10 pregnancies in the Philippines has been among teenagers, as the trend of younger girls giving birth continues to rise.

Popcom recently recorded two 10-year-old mothers from Metro Manila and Luzon, describing the cases as "concerning." 

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 MORE MINORS CREATE FAMILY, SUFFERS ECONOMICALLY

Perez said that 47 in every 1,000 women who give birth today are minors or 17 years old and below.

This means that many, specifically young mothers, are now suffering economically. 

“Ang mga pamilyang Pilipino na pinangungunahan ng mga batang ina, na menor de edad, ang pinakadukhang pamilyang Pilipino sa ating lipunan,” he said.

(Filipino families headed by minor mothers are the poorest in our society.) 

Today, he said, many minors get pregnant because of behavioral issues and lack of access to family planning methods. 

The Philippine Legislators' Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) urged the Department of Education (DepEd) to improve its curriculum in favor of lessons that would strengthen the students’ knowledge about their own body and how to protect them against those who would attempt to violate them.

“‘Yong isyu ng human rights at yung isyu ng paggalang sa kababaihan ay bahagi ng values... Hindi lang pinag-aaralan yung bahagi ng anatomy… kundi dapat pati yung prinsipyo ng paggalang sa kababaihan at makaiwas yung mga kabataan sa violence and abuse.. paano protektahan, saan magsusumbong,” PLCPD Exeutive Director Rom Dongeto said.

(The issue of human rights and advancing women’s rights should be part of the values, and people should not just study a woman’s anatomy. Respecting women and protecting them from violence and abuse, where to report these, should also be included in the curriculum.) 

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The Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC), for its part, underlined the need for health workers to also teach sexuality education and reproductive health programs not just in schools but also in the community.

There should also be a dedicated facility or center that can attend to the needs of teenage parents for them to avoid many adult’s discrimination, CWC’s Jhie Mojica said.

“Mahirap kasi 'pag nasa general health center ka eh. Kaya di ina-access ng mga bata.. May tendency din kasi mga adults, 'pag nakakita ka, alam mo yun, tingin ng adult – ano ba naman 'to, ang bata-bata pa, nagga-ganito na,” said Mojica. 

(It is difficult when you are in a general health center, that is why children do not access these facilities. There is also a tendency for adults to judge them, because there is prejudice already against the young parent.)

“Realidad 'to ng kabataan - getting pregnant o becoming a batang ama at a young age. This will push you to the fact na lagi kang nasa poverty line pa rin eh.. dahil kinakailangan mong magpalaki ng pamilya.. Kaya nagiging inter-generational,” she added.
 
(This is a reality - being pregnant or father at an early age. This will push you to the poverty line, because you need to also raise your family. That's why it becomes inter-generational.) 

The Popcom is now speeding up the distribution of “social protection” to teenage mothers using allotted funds for such programs in the 2021 national budget.

Social protection covers health or medical assistance and financial aid, according to Perez.

“Ngayong taon pa lang, ni-recognize na ng Congress na ang teenage mother at yung kanyang anak ay kailangan nang maisama sa social protection. So ine-expect na ng Kongreso, ang social protection, hindi lang sa 4Ps, hindi lamang sa older persons at persons with disability,” he said. 

(Congress already recognized the need for teenage mothers and their children to be included under social protection. Congress expects that they will have social protection, and not only those part of the 4Ps, the older persons and persons with disability.) 

Perez said that a bill seeking the institutionalization of giving social protection to teenage mothers and their children is now being pushed in the Senate.