By Corina Oliquino

MANILA – Sen. Win Gatchalian called on the Duterte administration to have a more aggressive response as teen pregnancies soar along with the number of young mothers trapped in poverty.

Last week, the Commission on Population and Development (PopCom) reported that births among girls aged 15 and below rose by seven percent in 2019 compared to previous years based on Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) data.

PopCom noted that in 2019, a total of 2,411 girls considered as very young adolescents gave birth or equivalent to “almost seven births among teenage girls every day.”

“This was a three-fold increase from 2000 when only 755 from the said age group gave birth,” PopCom said, noting it is the ninth year the Philippines logged a continuing rise in teenage pregnancies since 2011.

The Commission also explained that the number of Filipino minors who gave birth in 2019 jumped to 62,510 compared to 62,341 in 2018.  

Births among minors were the highest in Calabarzon at 8,008, followed by the National Capital Region (NCR) at 7,546 and Central Luzon at 7,523.

In a report by The Philippine Star, Gatchalian warned that the COVID-19 pandemic may further increase the number of teen pregnancies, citing a study conducted by the Department of Science and Technology-National Research Council of the Philippines (DOST-NRCP) where 23.5 percent of teenage girls in Eastern Visayas conceived after Typhoon Yolanda struck.

“Even before the pandemic hit our country, the rise in teenage pregnancies could already be considered a crisis,” Gatchalian said. PopCom has been asking President Rodrigo Duterte to formally declare the surge adolescent pregnancies a national social crisis since 2019.

Keeping girls in school and the Parent Effective Service Program

Last Month, Gatchalian filed Senate Bill No. 1985 which seeks to institutionalize in every barangay and municipality the Parent Effective Service Program to help parents and parent substitutes “to enhance their knowledge, skills, and attitude in parenting.”

Gatchalian is also pushing to keep girls in school so they can access information and sexuality education as “it is the best way to prevent teenage pregnancy.”

“We need to help young people and their parents through intensified health and education programs,” Gatchalian told The Philippine Star.

“Parents need to be capacitated in terms of effectively talking to their children about sexuality and reproductive health issues,” he added.

Earlier this week, Sen. Risa Hontiveros revived her push for the passage of Senate Bill No. 161, which she filed in July 2019 that seeks to “institutionalize social protection for teenage parents.”

At the House of Representatives, Representative Lawrence Fortun of Agusan del Norte along with other solons filed House Bill No. 5679 “that seeks to educate adolescents on sexual and reproductive health.”

Fortun told ANC’s Dateline the bill also seeks to “afford (adolescents) access to comprehensive reproductive health programs and services through the institutionalization of a program of action and investment plan to be implemented a national council that spearheads and coordinates the program of action and investment plan from the national level down to the grass roots.”