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PopCom clarifies: Teen pregnancy rate much worse

, / 04:05 AM September 19, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The head of the Commission on Population and Development (PopCom) clarified on Friday that about 40 to 50 Filipino children aged 10 to 14 years old give birth “every week’’—not every year.

PopCom Executive Director Juan Antonio Perez III made the clarification in an interview, correcting the statement he made in a Senate budget hearing the day before.

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“Actually, [with regard to] the number—I will correct somewhat the report—about 40 to 50 (girls) age 10 to 14 years old give birth every week,’’ he said on ABS-CBN’s Teleradyo.

Perez said PopCom was “concerned that this is happening at a time when we are implementing the RPRH,’’ or the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012.

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Around 2,250 children belonging to the 10-14 age group gave birth in 2018, which is more than double the estimated 1,000 in 2007, he added.

‘National social emergency’

In 2019, then Socioeconomic Planning Secretary and former PopCom Chair Ernesto Pernia called the teen pregnancy situation in the Philippines a “national social emergency.”

Perez said that, on average, around 64,000 minors, or those 18 years old and below, give birth every year.

“So perhaps, overall, with regard to teen pregnancy in the Philippines, 500 youths give birth every day,” he said.

Perez also cited a study by the University of the Philippines’ Population Institute projecting more than 2 million births in the country next year, of which 11 percent, or around 200,000, would be from the age group of 20 years old and below.

Reacting to the PopCom report, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on Friday reminded the youth to “enjoy being young but be mindful of your limitations.”

“Don’t allow yourselves to be caught in a moment of curiosity or passion or you’ll regret it,” said Fr. Jerome Secillano, CBCP spokesperson and executive secretary of the group’s public affairs committee.

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‘Difficult, complicated’

“Sex should not come before marriage. It should be done in marriage,” he stressed, adding: “This phenomenon [of teen pregnancies] actually quashes such a future. Life suddenly becomes more difficult and complicated for teenagers becoming parents themselves.”

The Catholic Church and the government have time and again expressed contradictory opinions on the matter of promoting sex education in schools as well as on widening accessibility of artificial contraceptions—a basis of the reproductive health law, which the Church had opposed.

Also on Friday, Malacañang urged parents and schools to be more active in educating children on reproductive health.

Raising age of consent

“We appeal to our parents, we really need to guide our children. As to schools, I am aware that public schools teach sex education, so we need to strengthen that with health education,” presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said at a press briefing in Baguio City.

“We also need the Church. We need them to be more active in giving guidance to our children,” he said.

Roque said it was up to Congress to decide if it would raise the age of consent to widen the scope of statutory rape, as proposed by Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri.

The senator earlier said raising the age of sexual consent from 12 to 16 could help deter teen pregnancies, as sexual relations below that new age limit would now qualify as a criminal offense.

“If Congress thinks that the right policy is to raise the age of minority for statutory rape to 16 years old, the government will respect that,” Roque said. —with reports from Jodee A. Agoncillo and Julie M. Aurelio

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TAGS: Popcom, Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012, Teenage Pregnancy
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