Philippines’ Closing Remarks: Undersecretary Juan Antonio A. Perez, III, MD, April 6, 10:22-10:25

Discussion Point: Given the Philippine’s experience delivering integrated multi-sectoral programmes for young people, how can we accelerate progress on adolescent well-being in particular as everyone is grappling with COVID-19 pandemic? What are the immediate next steps which are needed from world leaders? 

Magandang Umaga, as we say here in the Philippines.  A good morning to all.

In this event, we have seen a dialogue of young people and ministers on how young people’s needs and concerns are being addressed at this time of pandemic. This ensures that Young People’s well-being are among the priorities of every nation’s concerns.

As one of the countries in community quarantine, the Philippines has seen that COVID-19 is greatly impeding young people’s sexual and reproductive health. This leads to women in the country,  having a  42% increase in unintended pregnancy and 67% increase in unmet need for family planning, according to a study, estimating its effects[1]. More than one out of ten of those women will be adolescents.

Structural issues during the pandemic have led to young people being confined to their homes – facing logistical hurdles in accessing care, and when pregnant, are affected with service reductions due to community quarantine.

Containment and physical distancing measures may limit the capacity of the youth to exercise their rights, leading to discrimination and exclusion of young people from decision-making processes.

At this juncture, the Philippines is calling on world leaders to ensure that young people have, first and foremost, access to sexual and reproductive health information and services so they can fulfill their rights – in platforms that are available to them.

Young people need to have access to safe, trusted and reliable information, which are integrated to services – ensuring health, protection and psychosocial support and gender based violence care, for those who need them the most.

With the spotlight on adolescents who are most vulnerable to the risk of COVID-19 as our main focus for this event, I therefore call for a societal approach, where adolescents who are considered as vulnerable and most at risk are top of mind of those who can help them. These are adolescents who have no decision making power; no economic independence, considered by many countries as powerless, and with no autonomy; adolescents who are pregnant, with greater risks for repeat pregnancy, and vulnerable to gender based violence and inter-generational poverty during and as a result of their early childbearing.

Today in the Philippines, we are designing a social protection program for adolescents who are already parents in the middle of a surging pandemic, and we in government are in dialogue with the adolescent parents to ensure we meet their needs comprehensively and in an integrated manner.

I call on countries to provide multi-dimensional sources of protection for these vulnerable adolescents – access to social safety nets, social insurance, social assistance and the labor market. Protecting them and giving them the means that will be their best start for adulthood is our mission as duty bearers.

Let us sustain partnerships with young people on initiatives that leverage young people’s efforts in adolescent sexual and reproductive health.  We believe that a strong and sustainable recovery is possible only if young people are reached and included in this process.

I end this call by asking countries to ensure that young people everywhere should have meaningful participation and safe spaces in the time of these challenges.

Maraming Salamat po at Mabuhay.  Thank you.

 

[1] University of the Philippines and United Nations Population Fund, 2020. Potential Impact of COVID-19 in the Sexual and Reproductive Health in the Philippines.