MANILA—About 500 teenage girls give birth in the Philippines every day as more adolescents engage in premarital sex, the Commission on Population (POPCOM) said Thursday, raising concerns about early and unplanned pregnancies in the world's 13th most populated country.
Teenage pregnancy rate in the country declined to 8.7 percent in 2017 from 10.2 percent in 2016, but the number still remains high, POPCOM executive-director Juan Antonio Perez told reporters on the sidelines of a World Population Day Forum in Quezon City.
Some 196,000 Filipinos between the ages of 15 and 19 years old get pregnant each year, he said.
The teenage pregnancy rate in Asia's lone Catholic-dominated country remains high, as 30 percent of youngsters engaged in premarital sex in 2017, 10 percent higher than in 2016, he said.
Filipino teens who were exposed to vice or the internet at an early age usually end up with unplanned pregnancies, the POPCOM chief said.
"Of course, maraming content doon na walang filter. It might be pornography, it might be other matters," Perez said.
(Of course, there are more unfiltered content on the internet. It might be pornography, it might be other matters.)
Hanging out with drunk friends usually leads to intimate affairs, he added.
KINDER SEX ED?
The government plans to curb teenage pregnancy in the country by incorporating comprehensive sex education modules as early as kindergarten, Perez said.
"Hindi bagong subject ito. It will be integrated in the subjects that they have," he said.
"For example, 'yung kinder, tuturuan kung ano ang good touch at kung ano ang bad touch."
It is important for children to learn these at an early age as they are more prone to sexual abuse, Perez said, noting that more Filipinos in the range of 10 to 14 years old got pregnant in 2017.
"Tumataas 'yung area na 'yun and we really want to address that. May elemento kasi 'yun ng abuse," he said.
There were at least 2,000 10 to 14-year-old Filipinos who were pregnant in 2017; that's 200 cases more than in 2016, he said.
"Mahalaga ang conprehensive sexual education kasi ang kabataan ang informant lang nila ay kapwa kabataan," he said.
The rising teenage pregnancy rate in the Philippines has contributed to the country's population "crisis," Socioeconomic Planning Sec. Ernesto Pernia said.
"We are seeing the height of the crisis now. The carrying capacity of the country is overstretched," he said.
"It results to lack of jobs because there are many workers looking for jobs. [But] There are fewer job opportunities."
About 2 million babies are born in the country annually, data from a 2015 Census showed.
The government has earmarked P10.4 billion to procure and distribute family planning commodities nationwide until 2022, Perez said.
"We just have to accelerate, redouble, triple, or even quadruple our efforts. It’s really a catch-up plan," Pernia said.