Children having children is one of the most alarming issues that confront the country – and the Philippine government must address this problem as soon as possible.
The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) and the Commission on Population (PopCom), in a dissemination forum on Wednesday, Feb. 17, sounded the alarm on adolescent pregnancy and other top concerns of women in the Philippines during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
Last week, the data from the civil registry on pregnancy of “very young adolescents” in 2019 was released.
The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), through POPCOM, said that a total of 62,510 children gave birth in 2019.
Of these, seven very young adolescents or those between 10-14 years gave birth per day, or a total of 2,411 for the year.
For PLCPD executive director Romeo Dongeto, these data should serve as a “wake-up call” to the government.
“The recent data force us to examine and ask the government to explain why children in the Philippines are having children,” Dongeto said. “Looking closely, we know that it is not simply because these children, particularly the very young adolescents, have chosen to have consensual sex,” he added.
Dongeto also noted that the government itself – through the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) – has called teenage pregnancy a “national social emergency.”
Given this, PLCPD called on lawmakers and concerned government agencies to “respond to it as such.”
Dongeto also noted that the problem on teenage pregnancy is compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic which “ncreases the vulnerabilities of everyone, especially women and children.”
Based on a study by the University of the Philippines Population Institute and UNFPA, teenage pregnancy in the country could increase by an additional 18,000 last year as a result of barriers to services because of COVID-19 restrictions.
The study also projected that intimate partner violence – physical or sexual – could also increase by 20%, although many cases of gender-based violence remain unreported.
PLCPD, POPCOM, and other partners in the government and civil society launched the “No More Children Having Children” campaign in 2019 to call on Congress to pass the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Act.
Currently under the Period of Interpellation in the Senate and awaiting committee action at the House of Representatives, the bill provides access of minors to reproductive health services including modern family planning methods, comprehensive sexuality education, establishment of adolescent friendly health facilities, and social protection for adolescent mothers and fathers.
The “No More Children Having Children” campaign also calls for the full implementation of the Reproductive Health Law (Republic Act 10354), which mandates comprehensive sexuality education.
The PLCPD and its partners also support the movement of related legislation in both houses of Congress, including the prohibition of child marriage in the country, and raising the age to determine statutory rape from below 12 to below 16.
During the forum, a survey by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) conducted in November 2020 also showed that teenage pregnancy, unintended births, and physical violence are among the “top concerns of women” during the pandemic.