Addressing teenage pregnancies declared as ‘national priority’

By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos

June 29, 2021, 6:46 pm

MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte has declared the prevention of teenage pregnancies as a “national priority.”

Under Executive Order (EO) 141 issued on June 25, Duterte stressed the need to implement measures that will address the root causes of the rising number of adolescent pregnancies.

“The State shall mobilize existing coordinative and legal mechanisms related to the prevention of adolescent pregnancies, and to strengthen the adolescent’s capacity to make autonomous and informed decisions about their reproductive and sexual health by ensuring access to comprehensive sexuality education and reproductive health and rights services,” the EO read.

Duterte made the decision, as he acknowledged that childbearing in adolescences carries “increased” risk of health problems for both mother and child, such as anemia, sexually transmitted infections, and postpartum hemorrhage.

The Philippines has recorded a total of 180,916 live births among adolescents aged 10 to 19 in 2019, according to the data from the Civil Registration and Vital Statistics System of the Philippine Statistics Authority.

The figure is equivalent to 495 live births per day in the 10 to 19 age group.

Only three percent of all live births within the adolescent age group are fathered by men of the same age group, based on the January 2020 Policy Brief by the United Nations Population Fund Philippines. Such pregnancies, according to the briefer, may be a result of “coercion and unequal power relations between girls and older men.”

A 2016 study by the United Nations Population Fund Philippines found that adolescents lose an aggregate lifetime earnings of about PHP33 billion due to early childbearing.

“The number of adolescent pregnancies are expected to rise, as girls already living in dysfunctional homes spend more time with their households as a result of the [coronavirus disease 2019] pandemic and are thereby more exposed to abuse,” EO 141 said.

To address teenage pregnancies, all government agencies and instruments are directed to identify and implement practicable interventions such as comprehensive sexuality education, education and employment opportunities for young people, and health promotion through media and communications.

“In the implementation of the identified programs and interventions, all concerned agencies and instrumentalities shall maximize the use of digital and online platforms to reach adolescents and young people, and raise awareness on the protection and promotion of reproductive health and rights,” the order read.

State departments and offices are also directed to empower their regional and field offices and strengthen coordinative mechanism with local government units, and civil society organizations to reach adolescents in geographically-isolated and –depressed areas such as island municipalities, upland communities, hard-to-reach areas, and conflict-affected areas.

Youth councils are also enjoined to develop interventions and implement programs to prevent all known causes of adolescent pregnancies.

The Human Development and Poverty Reduction (HPDR) Cabinet Cluster and other relevant agencies are tasked to assist youth councils in implementing programs aimed at educating the youth on adolescent sexual and reproductive health, providing youth-friendly and rights-based measures, formulating retention strategies, and following-up on pregnant girls or young mothers.

Under EO 141, the National Youth Commission is directed to establish a forum for continuing dialogue between the government and the youth sector on the proper planning and evaluation of policies, programs, and projects affecting the youth.

The Philippine Commission on Women and Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM) is also ordered to educate leaders, parents, and other community members about evidence-based strategies to reduce, if not eliminate, adolescent pregnancy, and improve adolescent reproductive health.

“The POPCOM shall consolidate a Comprehensive Action Plan Towards the Prevention of Adolescent Pregnancies the different initiatives of all government agencies and institutions,” it said.

Sixty days after the issuance of EO 141, the HPDR Cabinet Cluster is mandated to report to the Office of the President (OP) the mechanisms effected to implement the order.

The HDPR Cabinet Cluster is also required to submit annual reports to the OP on the implementation of EO 141.

The funding for the implementation of EO 141 will be charged against the allocation for Gender and Development in the respective budgets of concerned agencies, and as may be warranted, against sources that will be identified by the Department of Budget and Management, as may be necessary.

EO 141, which was made public just on Tuesday, takes effect immediately upon its complete publication in the Official Gazette or in a newspaper of general circulation. (PNA)