Like the national statistics on poverty, the statistics on teenage pregnancy in the Philippines is simultaneously alarming and neither presented to the public very well nor up-to-date.
Case in point is the Commission on Population and Development (PopCom) dropping a clarification earlier today that *actually* 40 to 50 Filipino children aged 10 to 14 years old give birth every week—not every year as previously reported.
PopCom Executive Director Juan Antonio Perez III revealed this over ABS-CBN’s Teleradyo (not through the publication of a new statistical report as one might expect from an official), adding that the agency estimates that over 2 million women will be giving birth in the Philippines next year.
“Actually, ang bilang, medyo i-correct ko lang ang balita, mga 40 to 50 every week ang nanganganak na 10 to 14 years old,” he said over the air, correcting his earlier statement on a Senate budget hearing on Sept. 17. “Nag-aalala kami na ito ay nangyayari sa panahon na ini-implement pa naman natin ang RPRH (Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health) law,” he added.
In the hearing, he claimed that the country roughly has “40 to 50 10-year-old children giving birth every year” and that “62,000 minors aged 10 to 18 who gave birth in 2018,” the “one figure that has been increasing.”
In response to this, Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri noted that raising the age of consent in the country from 12 years old to no less than 16 years old could help prevent adolescent pregnancies. The bill pushing for this change was approved by two committees in the House of Representatives in August.
With economic and infrastructure growth being a focus of the Duterte administration, one can’t help but think that perhaps putting teenage pregnancy in the context of these would put it on focus. A 2016 study commissioned by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) revealed that “adolescents in the Philippines who have begun childbearing before the age of 18 are less likely to complete secondary education compared to the adolescents who have not begun childbearing. The non-completion of secondary education impacts employment opportunities in the future and total life earnings of families. The net estimated effect of early childbearing due to lost opportunities and foregone earnings can be as high as P33 billion annual losses for the country.”
In The Philippine Statistics Authority’s updated 2018 full year official poverty statistics released June this year, the agency stated that the 2018 poverty incidence “among [the] population, or the proportion of poor Filipinos whose per capita income is insufficient to meet their basic food and non-food needs, is now estimated at 16.7 percent. This translates to about 17.7 million Filipinos living in poverty in 2018.”
Teenage pregnancy is a crisis that exacerbates poverty rates. Please take this more seriously, if not for the sake of adolescent mothers specifically, then for the sake of the entire population.