Adolescent pregnancies in the Philippines have declined by 13 percent in 2020 which sets a record for the sharpest decrease in births of women under 20 since 2003, the Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM) said.
According to Perez, a substantial part of the decrease occurred in the 15-to-19 age bracket with 23,557 fewer births, contributing the majority or 98.7 percent of the decline. This was down to 425 births daily from 489 in the previous year.
For the 10-to-14 age group, which is considered as " very young adolescents," there were 298 fewer births or 12 percent lower. The average daily births went down from seven in 2019 to six in 2020.
In the latest data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, adolescent birth rates were at 31 per 1,000 girls in 2020—significantly lower than 47 per 1,000 as stated in the 2017 National Demographic Health Survey (NDHS).
The Philippine Development Plan targets a rate of 37 per 1,000, while POPCOM is aiming for a 50 percent reduction: from the baseline of 57 percent as stated in the 2013 NDHS, to 28 percent by 2022.
POPCOM Executive Director Juan Antonio A. Perez III called this development "good news," especially for those in the adolescent health sector and those who have been advocating for a reduction in teenage pregnancies.
It can be recalled that POPCOM noted an increased concern for teen pregnancies among women in a November 2020 survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations.
"Parents and their adolescent children have internalized an increased awareness about the problem of teen pregnancies with regard to the health and wellbeing of girls having children as minors," Perez said.
"The decline noted throughout the year serves as evidence that things are slowly changing for the better for our young women," he added.
The POPCOM chief also mentioned that the drastic decline in births, which was observed especially in December 2020, could be attributed to the COVID-19 lockdowns and restriction, including the closure of schools.
Meanwhile, despite the decrease in teen births, POPCOM vowed to continue addressing the cumulative effects of high adolescent birth rates with the Department of Social Welfare and Development, as well as local government units.
The Commission estimated that at least 160,000 families led by teen mothers will need social protection this year. The number is also expected to increase once pandemic concerns recede.
A comprehensive action plan to address adolescent pregnancies was called for by virtue of Executive Order 141 issued in 2021 by President Duterte, which is due for implementation this year.
"These results will encourage government agencies involved with the plan that change is possible in the coming years, with further expansion of existing programs, and by increasing social protection for those who have started families at a young age. The time to act is now, and not a day later," Perez emphasized.