The Philippines has recorded a total of 180,916 live births among adolescents aged 10 to 19 in 2019, according to the data from the Civil Registration and Vital Statistics System of the Philippine Statistics Authority. The figure is equivalent to 495 live births per day in the 10 to 19 age group.  More alarming is the information that about 7 live births were born to children 10-14 every day in 2019.

Only three percent of all live births within the adolescent age group are fathered by men of the same age group, based on the January 2020 Policy Brief by the United Nations Population Fund Philippines.  Such pregnancies, according to the briefer, may be a result of “coercion and unequal power relations between girls and older men.”

A 2016 study by the United Nations Population Fund Philippines found that adolescents lose an aggregate lifetime earnings of about PHP33 billion due to early childbearing.

On June 25, 2021, President Rodrigo R. Duterte enacted Executive Order No. 141 on “Adopting as a National Priority the Implementation of Measures to Address the Root Causes of the Rising Number of Teenage Pregnancies, and Mobilizing Government Agencies for the Purpose.”  He made the decision, as he acknowledged that childbearing in adolescences carries “increased” risk of health problems for both mother and child, such as anemia, sexually transmitted infections, and postpartum hemorrhage.

President Duterte ordered government offices to focus their attention on the issue of pregnancies among adolescents in the country, which is currently called an “urgent national priority” by the Commission on Population and Development’s (POPCOM’s) Board of Commissioners (BOCs), headed by Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua. 

EO 141 includes the identification of the root causes of adolescent pregnancies in order to organize 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. 

For this measure, POPCOM together with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) have collaborated in order to implement the Social Protection Program for Teenage Mothers and their Children (SPPTMC) in pilot cities of Regions III (Cabanatuan City), IV-A (Antipolo City), V (Legazpi City), VI (Iloilo City), X (Malaybalay City), and, in NCR (Caloocan City). 

A series of orientations have been conducted in order to discuss the SPPTMC objectives, schedule, activities, and participants.  POPCOM Central Office has downloaded funds for the conduct of the Rapid Appraisal of the SPTMC program for said regions from July to September, 2021.     

The Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) groups are also directed “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.”

Among others, the EO cites provisions of Republic Act (RA) 10354 or the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law, 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.

EO 141 stated that the number of adolescent pregnancies are expected to rise, as girls already living in dysfunctional homes spend more time with their households as a result of the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and are thereby more exposed to abuse. 

Government departments and offices are also directed to empower their regional and field offices, and strengthen coordinative mechanism with local government units (LGUs), and civil society organizations (CSOs) to reach adolescents in Geographically Isolated and Depressed Areas (GIDAs) such as island municipalities, upland communities, hard-to-reach areas, and conflict-affected areas.

The Philippine Commission on Women and POPCOM are also ordered to educate leaders, parents, and other community members about evidence-based strategies to reduce, if not eliminate, adolescent pregnancy, and improve adolescent reproductive health (ARH).

The Human Development and Poverty Reduction (HPDR) Cabinet Cluster and other relevant agencies are tasked to assist youth councils in implementing programs aimed at educating the youth on adolescent sexual and reproductive health, providing youth-friendly and rights-based measures, formulating retention strategies, and following-up on pregnant girls or young mothers.

Sixty (60) days after the issuance of EO 141, POPCOM thru the HPDR Cabinet Cluster is mandated to report to the Office of the President (OP) the mechanisms effected to implement the order. The HDPR Cabinet Cluster is also required to submit annual reports to the OP on the implementation of EO 141.

The funding for the implementation of EO 141 will be charged against the allocation for Gender and Development (GAD) in the respective budgets of concerned agencies, and as may be authorized, against sources that will be identified by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), as may be necessary.

Undersecretary for Population and Development Juan Antonio A. Perez III, MD, MPH, said that the signing of EO 141 proves the National Government’s deep concern for the most vulnerable during this COVID-19 pandemic.  They include minors who had unplanned or unintended pregnancies, which lead to the most vulnerable single-parent families during the pandemic.

One of the Philippine Population and Development Program’s (PPDP’s) major components is the Adolescent Health and Development (AHD) which aims to help reduce adolescent pregnancies through its strategies that reach hundreds of thousands of adolescents annually.  The AHD strategies teach life skills to adolescents in order to avoid engaging in early sex thereby preventing early pregnancy.  

 “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.

Sources: 

1.  Executive Order No. 141

2.  Activity Report on the Online Orientation of the Implementing Guidelines on SPPTMC (June 30, 2021).

3.  POPCOM CO Memorandum No. 2021-706 on Transfer of Funds for the Conduct of Rapid Appraisal on SPPTMC in July – August, 2021.

4.  Philippine Statistics Authority

5.  R.A. 10354 or RPRH Law

6.  January 2020 Policy Brief of the UNFPA – Philippines

7.  Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022

8.  Philippine Youth Development Plan 2017-2022