By Chito Chavez
The Philippines is currently haunted by teenage pregnancy woes as 13.6 percent of girls below 18-years-old got themselves pregnant in 2018.
Worse, nine percent of girls aged between 15 and 19 have already given birth or are pregnant, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said in 2017.
Compounding the problem is that 17 percent of females aged 15 to 49, the period of fecundity, want to use family planning methods, but are not doing so or have no access to such methods.
The Philippines has become the topnotcher in teen pregnancies among the six major economies of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), with the rate in the Philippines increasing while the same rate was reported to be sinking in the other member-states.
It was also not reassuring that the rate of the spread of HIV cases was also the highest in the Philippines, where sex has become cheaper as more and more motels are built in Quezon City, Manila, Pasay and other cities in the National Capital Region (NCR.)
Every day, 576 babies are delivered by Filipino teenage mothers, for a total of 210,240 babies annually, with the Davao Region, from where President Duterte holds court, notching 17.9 percent, followed by Northern Mindanao with 14.7 percent.
The National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) conducted in 2014 showed that the frequency of early child-bearing was higher in the rural areas with endemic poverty and afflicts families with more members.
“We are not even talking of teen pregnancies due to incest, or among minors forced to become commercial sex workers (CSWs) like those recruited to work in night clubs and white slavery rings the favor virgins for moneyed local clients,” the study said.
Studies conducted by government agencies, Health Undersecretary Juan Antonio “Jeepy” Perez, executive director of the Commission on Population and Development (Popcom) showed that teenage mothers were more likely to have premature and underweight babies, suffer chronic poverty and unlikely to achieve higher educational attainment.
Concerned about the impact of teen pregnancies on the national population, poverty situation and the possibility of minors contracting HIV, Perez and Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLPCD) executive director Rom Dongeto and other concerned individuals like noted Filipino rock star Skarlet Brown (who is also known as Myra Ruaro) launched the “No More Children Having Children” campaign at the Park Inn by Radisson at SM North Edsa on October 23.
“Bills seeking to address teenage pregnancies have been filed in the 17th Congress but never reached the sponsorship stage and thus were doomed to sleep the sleep of the dead in the plenary while similar proposals reached third reading in the Senate,’’ Perez and Dongeto said.
Versions of the Prevention of Teenage Pregnancy Bill are pending in the two Houses of Congress—House Bill 2297 in the Lower House and Senate Bill 161 in the Upper Chamber.
Briefly, the proposals call for the crafting of a program of action and an investment plan to prevent teenage pregnancy and the establishment of a national information campaign to educate minors and their parents about the adverse impacts of early motherhood.