Pregnancies among very young adolescents (VYA), or those between 10 and 14 years old, continued to rise in the country in 2018, based on the latest data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) as it noted an increase from 1,958 births in 2017 to 2,250 the year after.

On the other hand, the Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM) noted that the synergized adolescent health and development initiatives of government have borne fruit, evidenced with a marked decline in the number of births from teenage mothers 15 to 19 years old.

Data from the PSA’s Civil Registration and Vital Statistics revealed that the said teenage group saw a decrease in the number of births from 182,906 in 2017 to 181,717 in 2018.

However, the number of births by VYAs has been increasing since 2011 (1,381) to 2018 (2,250), which is a 63% rise. Total births from adolescents actually declined to 183,967 births despite the increase in births from VYAs or 504 deliveries per day.

 In a recent Senate hearing on various Teenage Pregnancy Prevention Bills, Undersecretary Juan Antonio Perez III pointed out to lawmakers that there are about 130,000 babies from women younger than 20-years old who were fathered by men who are 20 years of age or older. He also noted that of the births given by VYAs during the years covered, only 64 were fathered by boys 15 years of age or younger. He likewise does not discount the possibility that the young mothers might have suffered incidences of abuse, or were taken advantage of.

Disadvantaged, vulnerable

From a macroeconomic standpoint, Perez also said that “adolescent mothers who will join the workforce are at a gross disadvantage in terms of potential earnings in their lifetime, making them more economically vulnerable in life—compared with their peers who have finished high school and have yet to bear children.”

As he presented data on the lifetime earnings foregone of teenage moms, POPCOM’s executive director described it as “at least six times less than what they are supposed to receive compared to their peers who finished basic education and had no children as adolescents.”

In terms of earning potential, the POPCOM chief referenced a 2016 research by Dr. Alejandro Herrin: Education, Earnings and Health Effects of Teenage Pregnancy in the Philippines, which mentioned that childbearing, aside from associated health risks, “has implications in opportunities lost for their total development and well-being.”

‘National social emergency’

To address the foregoing conditions, the POPCOM chief is actively pushing for the passage of the Teenage Pregnancy Prevention Bill. This developed as Socioeconomic Planning Secretary and POPCOM Chair Ernesto M. Pernia has declared teen pregnancy situation in the Philippines as a “national social emergency.”

“For one, we would like to give teenage mothers a fighting chance in life and be productive citizens after giving birth. We are mobilizing local government units to advocate that those who are about to give birth to be given access to family planning methods.”

If passed, the law would enable support for teenage mothers to be reintegrated to the community as a means of social protection. It will allow for adolescent moms to continue their education and help them earn a decent living in the future.

“We are taking a holistic and inclusive approach on this matter, so that teenage mothers could have a greater chance to be productive members of the community and positively contribute to the economy, and to Philippine society as a whole,” Perez concluded. 

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About POPCOM: The Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM) is the country’s lead organization in population management for well-planned and empowered Filipino families and communities. Its goal is to attain a better quality of life for all Filipinos through management and maintenance of population level resources and the environment.