The Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM) praised President Rodrigo Roa Duterte for enacting Executive Order (EO) 141, which prioritizes the implementation of measures addressing adolescent pregnancies in the country and mobilizes government agencies for the said purpose.
The Chief Executive signed EO 141 on June 25 and was published on June 29 in the Official Gazette, making it effective after two weeks, or on July 10. The action of the President effectively focuses the attention of the government on the issue of pregnancies among adolescents in the Philippines, which is currently labeled as an “urgent national priority” by POPCOM’s Board of Commissioners, headed by Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua.
The order adopts as a national policy the implementation of measures to tackle the root causes of the rising number of young Filipinos giving birth. As such, “the State shall mobilize existing coordinative and legal mechanisms related to the prevention of adolescent pregnancies. It also includes interventions for the prevention of adolescent pregnancies such as comprehensive sexuality education, education and employment opportunities for the young, as well as health promotion through media and communication platforms.”
It also calls for youth and community mobilization, as Sanggunian Kabataan units are also enjoined “to develop interventions and prevent all known causes of adolescent pregnancies” while supporting adolescent mothers.
The EO invokes the National Youth Council to “establish a forum for continuing dialogue between the government and the youth sector on…proper planning and evaluation of policies, programs and projects affecting the youth.”
POPCOM as implementer. For its part, POPCOM is directed by EO 141 “to continue to educate leaders, parents and other community members about evidence-based strategies to reduce, if not eliminate, adolescent pregnancy, and improve adolescent reproductive health”
“POPCOM shall consolidate into a Comprehensive Action Plan Towards the Prevention of Adolescent Pregnancies the different initiatives of all government agencies and institutions,” the EO stipulated. As such, POPCOM may call upon any department, bureau, office, agency or instrumentality of the government for assistance, and shall submit such a plan to the HDPR (Human Development and Poverty Reduction) Cabinet Cluster as the President directed.
Undersecretary for Population and Development Juan Antonio Perez III, MD, MPH said that the signing of EO 141 manifests the national government’s deep concern for the most vulnerable during this pandemic. They include minors who had unplanned or unintended pregnancies, which lead to the most vulnerable single-parent families during the pandemic.
“Complementing the action of President Duterte, his signing of EO 141 will hopefully draw a positive response from Congress and the Senate to address gaps in family planning and reproductive health services among minors who have become parents, or are pregnant,” explained POPCOM’s executive director.
Other provisions. Within the EO, President Duterte also orders the Department of Budget and Management to “ensure that the annual National Expenditure Program shall include initiatives for the prevention of adolescent pregnancies in the (yearly) Budget Priorities Framework and its corresponding budget guidelines,” as well as support the Program Convergence Budgeting for the said initiatives.
Aiming to ensure a “whole-of-government” approach in the country’s attainment of the demographic dividend, the EO stipulates that “the HDPR Cabinet Cluster will provide coordination among all government agencies and instrumentalities, monitor the implementation of the relevant interventions at all levels, and ensure that such strategies are informed and supported international best practices and evidence-based population data and analyses.”
EO 141 also directs funding for its implementation, “…subject to the provisions of the Annual General Appropriations Act and (Republic Act 10354, or the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012), the amount necessary… (to) be charged against the allocation for Gender and Development in the…budgets of concerned agencies, and as may be warranted, against sources to be identified by the DBM, as may be necessary.”
Among others, the EO cites provisions of RA 10354, where the State recognizes and guarantees sexual and reproductive health as a human right of all persons, as well as education and information on such matters, and of choosing and making decisions.
EO 141 also mentions preventing adolescent pregnancies as key for all regions to reach their demographic dividend, and “among the declared strategies and priority legislative agenda under the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022.” It also stated the strengthening of youth participation in responsible sexual and reproductive health by lowering the incidences of teenage pregnancies, among others, is covered by the Philippine Youth Development Plan 2017-2022.