The Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Commission on Population and Development will combine efforts and resources to combat the adverse effects of adolescent pregnancies in the country, as both agencies are set to institute a social protection program for teenage mothers and their children, or SPPTMC.
This, as the national government has directed DSWD and POPCOM to undertake the social protection mechanism as a means to alleviate the resultant financial burdens of unintended pregnancies of mothers who are 10 to 19 years old, as well as those of their families.
In January, the Senate of the Philippines tasked DSWD and POPCOM to oversee such a program. According to a special provision of the 2021 General Appropriations Act, DSWD “shall develop a social protection program specifically for teenage mothers who are minors and their children,” while POPCOM “shall develop recommendations for a social protection program for teen-aged mothers and their children. This shall be submitted to DSWD for integration in their existing social-protection program.”
The collaboration between DSWD and POPCOM was formalized through a virtual memorandum of agreement (MOA)-signing between Social Welfare Secretary Rolando D. Bautista and Undersecretary for Population and Development Juan Antonio Perez III, MD, MPH on June 10.
The MOA covers the development of an information system to identify teen moms and their children nationwide, the health services they can access and avail, nutrition support, mental-health, ability to return to school, and a social amelioration program to support those belonging to the lowest socioeconomic bracket until they are able to find gainful work or livelihood, among others.
No one left behind—including young mothers
Providing context to the initiative, Perez said, “It has been established that adolescent mothers are at a gross disadvantage in terms of potential earnings in their lifetime, making them more economically vulnerable in life—compared to their peers who have finished secondary education and have yet to bear children.”
The POPCOM chief noted that the lifetime earnings foregone of teenage moms is “at least four times less than what they are supposed to receive. Likewise, their condition will bear heavily on a families’ savings by about one-third of every unplanned pregnancy. Thus, we see this social protection initiative as a means to ease their financial burdens.”
In his message, Secretary Bautista said, “Addressing the issue of teenage pregnancy cannot be resolved solely by the DSWD and POPCOM, or a single agency, considering the multifaceted concerns, its urgency and the need for a whole-of-nation approach. As such, the partnership between (our two agencies) on the implementation of the SPPTMC is indeed crucial.”
He added that, “Through this partnership, we can mutually prevent teenage pregnancies and establish sufficient and accessible measures to protect the well-being of teenage mothers and their children, as envisioned in the Philippine Development Plan, and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”
Numbers still up
According to data from POPCOM, the Philippines ranks fourth in terms of early childbirth rates among Southeast Asian countries. From the Philippine Statistics Authority’s Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (PSA-CRVS), there were about 171 live births born to minors every day in 2019. The agency also noted a general increase in the number of births from very young adolescents aged 10 to 14 in that same year, with about seven live births born to children every day, compared to three daily in 2011.
The PSA-CRVS also revealed that in 2015, there were 5,297 repeat pregnancies, or second-time births, among 10- to 17-year-old girls, with only a slight decrease in 2018 at 4,633.