Young mothers nurse their babies in a health facility. In Eastern Visayas, POPCOM VIII said 7 percent of teenage girls are already mothers. PNA FILE PHOTO

In line with the nationwide rollout of the social protection program for adolescent mothers and their children (SPPAMC), the Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM) has welcomed the City of Ormoc in Leyte as the pioneering local government unit (LGU) to pilot the beneficial scheme.

               This positive development in the government’s drive to provide holistic protection for the said vulnerable members of society was announced when Mayor Richard I. Gomez signed the Ormoc City Executive Order (EO) 216 early this month. The document stipulates the continued provision of “opportunities for education, access to health services and other assistance [safeguarding a better quality of life, while reducing poverty incidence and other vulnerabilities to serve] the best interests of the City and its constituents…”

               In the EO, Gomez and city officials recognized that “one of the emerging threats to the development of adolescents and youth is the increasing incidence of pregnancies, particularly among young girls.” They said the social malady “can seriously hinder [the young] from realizing their aspirations and potentials; thus affecting their capacity to contribute to the socioeconomic development of their families and communities.”

The order was also signed after the Sangguniang Panlungsod passed a Resolution authorizing the city government to enter into a Memorandum of Agreement with POPCOM, and allocating counterpart funds for SPPAMC from the LGU.

               POPCOM VIII Regional Director Elnora R. Pulma, MMPM lauded the city government for being the first LGU in the Philippines to collaborate with the agency for the SPPAMC: “With commendations to the city for recognizing the value of the program, I believe that Ormoc—with the able leadership of Mayor Gomez—will encourage other LGUs in operationalizing the same in their area. They can be assured of our agency’s full and unwavering support for its successful implementation.”

               Quoting data from the Philippine Statistics Authority’s Civil Registration and Vital Statistics of 2019, the regional director revealed that the Eastern Visayas region logged in 7,000 pregnancies among teens in 2019, with at least eight young mothers who had already given birth when they were 13 years old. She said the SPPAMC being enabled in Ormoc City will encourage these youth to rise above their conditions, and still be productive citizens.

‘Tangible manifestation:’ Undersecretary for Population and Development (POPDEV) Juan Antonio A. Perez III, MD, MPH welcomed Ormoc City’s piloting of the SPPAMC, as it demonstrates the government’s inclusive and holistic approach in addressing issues on teen pregnancy.

        “The SPPAMC is the national government’s tangible manifestation in ensuring no one is left behind in terms of progress and development—including almost 200,000 young Filipino mothers and their kids,” POPCOM’s executive director explained. “We know their situation can adversely affect their future and potential. Without proper interventions such as the SPPAMC, they could be trapped into a vicious cycle of intergenerational poverty.”

“As a whole, the SPPAMC’s message is that all is not lost for the said marginalized members of our society, and that their government is working to provide hope and a possible rebound toward an ideal quality of life for them,” Perez added. 

He cited a special provision in Republic Act 11518, or the General Appropriations Act, for Fiscal Year 2021, which states that POPCOM “shall develop a recommendation for a special protection program for teenage mothers and their children.” In compliance, the agency has developed the SPPAMC based on the approved Social Protection Operational Framework and Strategy, which will include a pilot implementation of proposed interventions in select partner-LGUs, with Ormoc City being the first of them.

The POPDEV undersecretary expects other LGUs will follow Ormoc City’s lead, as POPCOM has received numerous letters of intent for pilot implementation of the program in their areas of responsibility. They are Dagupan City (Pangasinan) in Region I; Lallo and Solana (Cagayan), Maddela and Diffun (Quirino) and Roxas (Isabela) in Region II; as well as Mabalacat City (Pampanga) and Meycauayan (Bulacan) in Region III. 

The activation of the SPPAMC with Ormoc City, the POPCOM chief noted, serves as a prelude to the observance of Population and Development Week from Nov. 23 to 29, which focuses on building the foundation of Filipino families for the nation’s growth. The SPPAMC is being conducted nationwide with the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

The LGU’s move, he said, is a complementary response to President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s enactment in June 2021 of EO 141, which directs “government agencies and other instrumentalities to adopt as a national priority all measures that can address the root causes of the rising numbers of adolescent pregnancies in the country.”

Initial implementer: Ormoc City’s rollout of its SPPAMC was activated by a letter of intent from Gomez for his constituency to be included in the initial implementation of the SPPAMC, which POPCOM’s Eastern Visayas Regional Office promptly approved. The Sangguniang Panlungsod, via Resolution 2021-297, authorized the local chief executive to formalize the agreement with POPCOM VIII for the operation of the SPPAMC in his locale.

       The city recognizes the vital role of Ormocanon youth in local development while committing to the promotion of their well-being and holistic growth as a priority development plan. It effectively became an implementing model to the establishment of the SPPAMC in other local governments under the principles of LGU devolution, by way of its partnership with POPCOM.           Gomez likewise directed the creation of a project management team specifically focused on ensuring the successful implementation, coordination, teamwork and synergy among various departments and offices of the LGU involved in the pilot rollout. Among others, it is tasked to oversee the program’s execution, ensure the city government’s compliance to the SPPAMC MOA, and ideating sustainability strategies for project gains institutionalization. Future SPPAMC LGU implementers are also urged to do the same. ###

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