MANILA – The Commission on Population and Development (PopCom) raised in the Senate the issue of teenage pregnancy in the Philippines and how the “delay” in the discussions on a proposed bill puts to risk more than 60,000 girls below 18 who are giving birth every year.
PopCom chief Juan Antonio Perez III made the statement on Wednesdayfollowing the postponement of debates on Senate Bill No. 1334, or the proposed “Prevention of Adolescent Pregnancy Act,” which seeks to fully and appropriately address the alarming prevalence of teenage pregnancies nationwide.
Former Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia earlier sounded the alarm in 2018, citing that the incidence is a “national social emergency.”
Pernia issued the statement after a Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) report, released in that same year, showed that the country had 62,341 minors who delivered babies — counting those with repeated pregnancies.
The PopCom chief said with this national social emergency, it is extending support to comprehensive sexuality education (CSE).
“This ensures that public and private schools, as avenues for development, will provide young people a supportive environment where they have access to age- and development-appropriate information on responsible parenthood and reproductive health, as stated in Rule 11 of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law (RPRH) Law,” Perez said.
He said it will be further complemented and supported by SB No. 1334 if eventually enacted, as both will provide necessary protection to young mothers who now have become among those most vulnerable sectors in Philippine society.
On Tuesday, Senate President Vicente Sotto III called for more consultation with concerned sectors regarding the bill, as he offered to postpone the deliberations.
He said the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP), a group of 1,525 Catholic schools and universities in the country, expressed their objection on the matter saying the group was not consulted.
CEAP cited the provision proposing to mandate the inclusion of an “age and development-appropriate comprehensive sexual education (CSE)” in schools and communities.
“The contents of the SB No. 1334 were already contained in the Republic Act No. 10354 or the RPRH Act of 2021, specifically, that the schools “have already integrated in their respective curricula the necessary age and development-appropriate reproductive health education” as mandated by the law,” the Catholic group’s position paper reads.
The group said a standardized CSE would “also conflict with the academic freedom constitutionally enjoyed by these higher educational institutions”.
“According to them, their Catholic identity as articulated in their vision and mission is the very nexus of the instruction and formation of their students. ‘It is therefore becoming a very problematic issue for our members when a standardized instruction especially on matters of human sexuality is being mandated by the State,” Sotto said.
No ‘direct access’ to RH programs
Meanwhile, Perez also expressed the urgency of the bill as more than 60,000 young girls are at risk each year without the bill.
Perez said if passed into law, SB 1334 will greatly benefit minor girls who are already mothers and those who are currently conceiving, as it will enable their unimpeded access to reproductive health programs, as well as age- and developmentally-appropriate education and information on sexual health and family planning.
The Supreme Court ruling, however, struck down a part of the RPRH Law which would provide access to family planning services to minors below 18 or young girls who are already mothers or are currently pregnant, as it declared that it is the role of their parents to give consent to the adolescents’ use of artificial or natural methods of contraception, he added.
The number of adolescents who gave birth has increased, “with only a marginal decline,” according to Perez, “because of various efforts in-place, which still require broader policy support—including budget and resources.”
“The public, as well as our solons, should now be cognizant of the fact that families started by minors year-in and year-out, especially the young mothers who have experienced repeat pregnancies, are the real beneficiaries of the RPRH,” Perez said. (PNA)