The House of Representatives on September 5 approved on the third and final reading a proposed measure to create a national action plan to address adolescent pregnancy.
Under the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Act, an inter-agency council will be created as the country’s “policy-making body responsible for the formulation and implementation of policies and programs that shall provide family-oriented, adolescent-friendly sexual and reproductive health programs”.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Philippines welcomed the passage of the bill, which it said “is a major step forward in reducing adolescent pregnancies and ensuring the rights of young people in the Philippines.”
Dr. Leila Joudane, Philippines Country Representative of UNFPA, said teenage pregnancy has “a devastating impact on the health, education, and economic opportunities of young women, and it is a major obstacle to the country’s development”.
She said the bill will help young people access information and services “to make informed and responsible choices” about their sexual and reproductive health and “prevent unwanted pregnancies”.
Although adolescent pregnancy among those 15-19 years old has gone down to 7.2% in 2021 from 14.4% in 2013, the Philippines still has one of the highest adolescent birth rates among ASEAN countries, according to UNFPA.
The Philippine Statistics Authority reported that the number of births by mothers aged 10-14 years has also shown a slight increase – 1,903 in 2016 and 2,113 in 2020.
Romeo Dongeto, convenor of the Child Rights Network and executive director of the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development Foundation, Inc. (PLCPD), described the proposed measure as a “historic milestone”.
“Every child has the right to health and the right to finish their education and reach their dreams. Without government intervention, early and unintended pregnancies most often upend these rights,” said Dongeto.
According to PLCPD, the Philippines ranks second in Southeast Asia for the highest adolescent birth rate, and recent data show an increase in pregnancies among girls aged 10 to 14.
In addition to its primary focus on preventing sexual violence, the bill encompasses a comprehensive range of measures.
These include guaranteeing minors’ access to crucial information and reproductive health services, encompassing modern contraceptives.
The legislation also entails the implementation of educational programs aimed at preventing sexual violence and fostering responsible attitudes toward sexuality.
It establishes a support system for adolescent parents and their children, offering essential healthcare and educational prospects.
To ensure effective implementation, the bill mandates the training of healthcare professionals and custodians.
It also outlines a government framework for policy and program development, including the creation of an information and service distribution network dedicated to adolescent health and development.