By Macon Araneta
FilAm Star Correspondent
Following the Commission On Population (PopCom) report that an average of 530 teenage girls get pregnant daily and in 2017, the figure went as high as 574 per day, Senators Sonny Angara and Win Gatchalian will file separate resolutions for a Senate inquiry into the rising incidence of child and teenage pregnancies.
Angara and Gatchalian cited the need for the government to act hastily against this situation, which the POPCOM said should be declared “a national emergent.”
Angara said his resolution intends to boost Republic Act 10534 or the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 (RH Law) which mandates the provision of age and development-appropriate reproductive health education, including teenage pregnancy.
RA 10354 also provides that the Department of Education ( DepEd) formulate a curriculum for each educational level or group, subject to consultations with parents-teachers-community associations, school officials and other interest groups, to be used by public schools and may be adopted by their private counterparts.
But despite the passage of the RH Law, Gatchalian lamented the Philippine Statistics Authority’s (PSA) 2017 National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) report showing that nine percent of 4.9 million teenage women aged 15-19 have begun child-bearing.
He said PopCom also reported that between 2011 and 2017, pregnancies in the 10-14 age group increased by 50 percent from around 1,000 to 2,000 cases, 30 to 50 of which are among 10-year olds.
The data on child and teenage pregnancies in the country, Angara said, should be a cause for alarm due to its increasing number.
“What is even more alarming is that 30 to 50 percent of these pregnancies involved 10-year-old girls. Children this age should be in school and playing with other kids. They cannot possibly be ready to get pregnant and raise their own children,” Angara said.
“When young girls get pregnant, they are forced to quit school. Their lives take an unexpected detour, ambitions are set aside and they effectively lose their childhood. No child should have to go through this,” Angara added.
Gatchalian, on the other hand, wants the Senate inquiry to strengthen the comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) and curb teenage pregnancies in the Philippines.
“Despite the existence of CSE and the RH Law, teenage pregnancy rates in the country are still alarming,” said Gatchalian.
He said this prompted them to re-visit and bolster existing policies so “we can save teenagers from getting pregnant and falling into the trap of inter-generational poverty.”
The Senator, who chairs the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture, also cited a finding by PSA’s 2017 Annual Poverty Indicators Survey, which revealed that “marriage or family matters” is the top reason why female out-of-school children and youth (OSCY) aged 6-24 are not attending school.
“The youth would be deprived of proper health and a bright future if they will not be guided on the issue of reproductive health,” he said.
Gatchalian vowed that he will file a resolution to conduct an inquiry to craft a relevant legislation to reverse the spike of teenage pregnancies nationwide.
“We need urgency in institutionalizing measures and ensuring their proper implementation to address this situation. Protecting girls from teenage pregnancy empowers them to be independent and economically productive members of the society,” Gatchalian said.
In 2017 the Philippine National Demographic and Health Survey conducted by the Philippine Statistics Authority found that nine percent of teenage women aged 15 to 19 have begun child-bearing.
The survey showed that the highest incidence of teenage pregnancies was recorded in Davao, Northern Mindanao and SOCCSKARGEN.
According to the Department of Education, underage pregnancies has led to an increase in the drop-out rate among female students.
In its 4th Annual RPRH Report, the Department of Health noted that the unmet need for family planning was one of the major roadblocks in addressing teenage pregnancies.
The report indicated that 35.8 percent of adolescents aged 15 to 19 have access to any family planning method, while only 29.7 percent have access to any modern method of family planning.
“With the Philippines having one of the lowest minimum age of sexual consent and the high prevalence of unmet need for family planning, it is necessary to review our policies in order to prevent child and teenage pregnancies,” Angara said.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said that teenagers, especially the poor and marginalized, get pregnant because they lack access to school, information, sexual and RH care. The UN agency added that teenage pregnancy costs the Philippines PHP33 billion in annual income.