Duterte makes curbing teen pregnancies a national priority
Video courtesy of PTV
President Rodrigo Duterte has made teen pregnancies a national priority, based on a document that Malacañang released on Tuesday, as the Philippines continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Citing data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, Duterte said 183,967 live births were recorded among adolescents aged 10 to 19 years old in 2018, and 180,916 for the same age group the next year.
"The number of adolescent pregnancies is expected to rise, as girls already living in dysfunctional homes spend more time with their households as a result of the pandemic and are thereby more exposed to abuse," the President said in Executive Order 141.
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.
He said it was "imperative" to coordinate and asses the efforts of concerned government agencies to curb teen pregnancies.
"The implementation of measures to address the root cause of the rising number of adolescent pregnancies is hereby adopted as a National Priority," Duterte said.
He directed agencies "to strengthen the adolescents’ capacity to make autonomous and informed decisions about their reproductive and sexual health by ensuring access to comprehensive sexuality education and reproductive heath and rights services."
He tasked agencies to "maximize the use of digital and online platforms" and "exert all efforts" reach young people in geographically isolated, depressed or conflict-affected areas.
The same EO urged the Sangguniang Kabataan to "arrest and prevent all known cause of adolescent pregnancies."
Duterte ordered the National Youth Council "establish a forum between the government and the youth sector" on policies and program that affect the youth.
Even before the pandemic, the government was already trying to temper population numbers. At the turn of the millennium, the country had a population of 76 million, but by 2015 it had grown almost one-quarter to 100 million, representing average annual population growth of 1.6 percent – the highest in Southeast Asia.
The landmark passage in 2012 of the Reproductive Health Law, which introduced a more comprehensive national family planning program, was aimed at slowing the birth rate.
A year after the law was passed, the modern contraceptive prevalence rate was at 38 percent, up from 34 percent in 2008, and by 2017 – the last year for which statistics are available – the rate had only slightly improved to 40 percent.
However, the extended lockdown measures are reversing the small strides the country of 110 million people has made.
The Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM) said the COVID-19 crisis "worsened" the difficulty of availing family planning services, which are "very crucial in mitigating cases of early pregnancies."
Births among girls ages 15 years old and below has increased consistently since 2011, with 1 out of every 10 pregnancies in the Philippines recorded among teenagers, the POPCOM said.
- With a report from the South China Morning post