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More girls aged 10-14 get pregnant in the Philippines —POPCOM

The incidence of teenage pregnancy is on the rise among girls aged 10 to 14 in the Philippines, according to the Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM) on Friday.

A 63% increase in the number of births delivered by the said age group was observed, comparing data from 2011 and 2018. Some 2,250 babies were born to mothers with such a young age in 2018, the POPCOM stressed.

Meanwhile, the incidence of teenage pregnancies among women 15 to 19 years old in the country decreased from 182,906 in 2017 to 181,717 in 2018.

POPCOM explained that individual and institutional factors are behind the differing trends among the two age groups of adolescents.

Among the individual factors were early onset of menstruation, lack of education, and exposure to risky behaviors on the internet and in their circle of friends.

Institutional factors include information dissemination and provision of access to family planning services for the younger population.

"Dahil sa institutional work, bumababa 'yung pregnancy sa 15 to 19 (years old) pero yung 10 to 14 (years old) mas strategic yata ang action na kailangan natin. Dapat it's more cultural, we need to get more institutions and adults involved," POPCOM chief Juan Antonio Perez III said.

Meanwhile, the Department of Health (DOH) divides the adolescent bracket into three groups: (1) not sexually active, (2) sexually active, (3) pregnant or already a parent. They have different approaches for each category.

"Doon sa first group is to delay the sexual activity... for those who are sexually active—protect them from unplanned pregnancy coupled with prevention of sexually transmitted infections, HIV... and lastly for those who are pregnant or with children is to prevent rapid repeat pregnancy," DOH program manager Dulce Elfa said.

Violence and teenage pregnancy

According to the POPCOM, around 130,000 babies from teenage pregnancies were fathered by men who are 20 years old and above.

Romeo Dongeto, executive director of the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development Foundation, Inc. stressed that not all teenage pregnancies stem from consensual relationships.

"Sexual violence against children is very much connected to adolescent reproductive health and teenage pregnancy in the country. Ang taas po ng sexual violence sa Pilipinas," Dongeto said.

The POPCOM said that there is currently no available government data detailing how many of the teenage pregnancies in the country were connected to sexual violence.

Kabataan Partylist Representative Sarah Elago, citing a study, said that the Philippines loses P33 billion worth of revenues every year due to the said issue among adolescents.

She underscored that the full implementation of the Reproductive Health law in the country is imperative and new laws that will prevent pregnancies among teenagers shall be ratified.

Social protection must also be provided for the young parents to prevent
intergenerational poverty, according to Perez.

Out of the over 100 million population in the Philippines, 21 million are adolescents. —LDF, GMA News